APRIL 17 2006
Steve Kassel, EA Featured in
Washington Times article on Tax Negotiation
I was contacted by Tom Ramstack, a reporter
with the Washington Times on April 7th for an article on tax negotiation. The
article ran today on the front page of the Washington Times. As of March 31,
2005, the Times daily circulation was over 103,000.
Negotiating Back Taxes Can Turn Out To Be Costly
Ina, a Silver Spring secretary, owed
the IRS for three years of back taxes after she neglected to file her returns. Meetings with Internal Revenue Service
agents who demanded she file her returns and pay back taxes merely aggravated
her, prompting her to seek the help of a tax negotiator.
"I thought because it was just a stupid
error, I shouldn't be penalized at all," she said, blaming the problem on an
accountant. "It didn't matter: I was anyway." She asked that her last name not
be used to protect her privacy.
The IRS originally demanded that she
pay about $6,500 in back taxes, penalties and interest in a year in which she
"It almost gave me a nervous
breakdown," Ina said.
An Internet search led her to a tax
negotiator, Steven Kassel, who filled out her missing tax returns so she could
make the payments and clear up the dispute.
Tax negotiators can be lawyers,
certified public accountants or "enrolled agents," which means they are licensed
by the IRS.
Negotiators are hired after IRS audits
to help reach resolutions that can prevent the federal government from diverting
money from their clients' bank accounts or wages to pay taxes.
Ina's experience with professional tax
assistance ended amicably, but a report by the Treasury Department inspector
general for tax administration told a different story.
The report said some tax preparers and
negotiators have criminal convictions or other infractions that should
disqualify them from practicing.
"Some tax practitioners who have been
convicted of tax-related crimes or whose licenses have been suspended or revoked
by state authorities have not been suspended from practice before the IRS," the
inspector general's report said.
Even negotiators say taxpayers should
"There are a lot of companies that will
prey upon the fears of people who have tax problems," Mr. Kassel said.
Many tax negotiators are competent and
honest, he said.
Others charge clients $5,000 to $7,000
for results that are questionable, he said.
"They've paid a whole lot of money to
get absolutely nothing," Mr. Kassel said.
Like many of the nation's 46,000
enrolled agents, Mr. Kassel is a former IRS employee, which he acknowledges is
no guarantee of quality.
Former IRS agents provide the best
service when they perform private-sector jobs similar to the ones they did for
the government, said Jim Dougherty, director of tax-controversy services for the
D.C. office of Deloitte Tax LLP, a tax-services company. He previously worked
for the IRS handling taxpayer appeals.
"I think the advantage is that when
you've worked for an organization for a number of years, you get to know the
processes, you get to know the procedures," Mr. Dougherty said. The IRS has "a
very good tax-training program," he said.
But Jim Dupree, IRS spokesman for the
D.C. area, said former agents have no special advantage for tax negotiation.
"There are standards or regulations for
anyone who practices before the Internal Revenue Service," Mr. Dupree said.