Best Value: Tax Defense Network

The Best Tax Relief Companies

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The best tax debt relief companies assist individuals who owe the IRS back taxes and need help settling their debts. With so many regulations surrounding taxes, it can be difficult for the everyday person to have a clear understanding of which approach to take.

In my analysis, I looked for tax debt relief companies who are knowledgeable on tax law, having a proven track record, trustworthy and are easy to communicate with. I have reviewed the best tax debt relief companies to help you find help settling your tax debt.

The Best Tax Relief Companies: Our Top Picks

Tax Defense Network Review

  • Pros
  • Excellent ethics policy
  • Dedicated client support
  • Flat rate pricing, no retainer
  • Good refund policy
  • Three days to cancel service
  • Cons
  • Refund period not as long as other companies
  • No online chat support

Tax Defense Network stands out in the field of tax debt relief as an ethical provider with transparent business practices. In assessing their client's situations, they make a point of communicating realistic expectations as to possible outcomes of negotiations with the IRS.

That being said, Tax Defense Network works hard in dead earnest to bring the best possible result to you in pursuit of paying your back tax debt, and getting into compliance with the IRS. Note that the refund period they offer is shorter than some of their competitors.

Optima Tax Relief Review

  • Pros
  • Excellent ethics policy
  • Dedicated client support
  • 15 days to cancel services
  • Good refund policy
  • Cons
  • No Live Chat

Optima Tax Debt Relief works from the premise that many taxpayers are unable to pay their tax debts based on their current financial picture, lacking the income and/or assets necessary to pay.

They employ a two-fold strategy on client's behalf. First they work to solve immediate problems, such as the imminent threat of a tax lien, and secondly they work with clients on solving their overall tax debt problem, working and negotiating with the IRS on their behalf to bring resolution. This generally great firm has no live chat option.

Stop IRS Debt Review

  • Pros
  • 15 years of experience
  • A+ Better Business Bureau rating
  • Full range of tax services
  • Informative blog
  • Cons
  • No weekend customer service
  • Such a large company may provide less personalized service.

The Stop IRS Debt tax relief team has been in business for more than fifteen years, helping taxpayers escape tax debt and rebuild their lives. The company offers full service tax solutions, from simple filing assistance to more advanced tax debt relief measures. The company is one of the few in the US that specializes in assisting customers with more than $1 million in tax debt.

Stop IRS Tax Debt professionals are available by phone, e-mail, and online chat. They offer free consultations so there is no risk if you're unsure that their service is right for you.

Key Considerations When Looking for Tax Relief

Tax debt is a big problem. According to, Americans owe $114.2 billion in unpaid taxes. And while taxes are a necessary part of life, they can cause stress and often personal debt. If you are struggling to pay unpaid taxes, consider contacting a tax relief company.

A tax debt relief service consists of certified public accountants, tax attorneys, and other professionals in the field who have a thorough understanding of tax-related dilemmas. These companies put you in touch with tax specialists who can evaluate your situation and will work side-by-side with you to come up with the optimal strategy to negotiate away penalties and interest and get back on the good side of the IRS.

Before choosing what company to work with, it's important to study their services in-depth. In addition to the services they offer, reflect on the following considerations:

Tax Relief Questions to Ask

What areas of tax relief does a given company specialize in? When doing your own research, consider these questions:

  • Do they offer help with federal tax debt only, or do they also work on state and municipal cases?
  • Are there tax attorneys and CPAs on staff, and do they have special training or certification in tax matters?
  • How many years of experience do attorneys, CPAs, and other staffers have in tax relief work, and how extensive is their knowledge of the tax code?
  • What's their track record in helping clients come into compliance with the IRS and other tax authorities?
  • Is the company specifically experienced in the area where you need help the most?

Tax Debt Areas of Speciality

There are many areas of tax relief. Below are just a few. Verify that the company you choose is knowledgeable and successful in the area you need help in.

  • Unpaid taxes
  • Wage garnishment
  • Tax penalties
  • Audits
  • Liens
  • Levies
  • Asset Seizures

Pricing and Fees

Prior to hiring a tax relief service, get the details about their fee structure. Do they charge a flat fee, a retainer fee, or a fee per service? Can you get a written estimate of their fees prior to hiring them? Is there a minimum back-tax debt requirement to engage their services?

Ask about free consultation prior to hiring them, and if there is a refund policy. If so, what are the terms of the refund policy? The best tax debt relief services pride themselves on transparency, so expect direct answers to your questions about their fees.

Dealing with the IRS So You Don't Have To

Familiarize yourself with taxpayer options in handling back tax debt, such as installment plans, penalty, and interest abatement offers in compromise and amending previous returns, to name a few. Can the tax debt relief service negotiate or file on your behalf for these and other actions? Do they know the tax code in sufficient depth to determine which options will get the best results?

Expect the company to provide a tax debt relief specialist to work with you on creating an in-depth analysis of your financial situation. This determines how much you can afford to pay, and how to present your case to the IRS.

Some tax debt relief services heavily promote the OIC, or Offer in Compromise, as a solution to back tax liability problems. The OIC program balances the back tax debt owed the IRS against the taxpayer's current income and assets. Taxpayer expenses and ability to pay are weighed in. Those with high tax debt and low ability to pay may be granted an OIC, meaning they pay a reduced amount of back taxes.

The problem with Offers in Compromise is that taxpayers must meet one of a few specific requirements to be eligible. These requirements are:

  • Doubt as to liability - the taxpayer must show the IRS never informed them of the debt they owed.
  • Doubt as to collectability - the taxpayer must show that they will never be able to pay the bill in full, even over many years.
  • Effective Tax Administration - the taxpayer must show that paying the tax debt would cause them significant and undue economic hardship.

Given the strict requirements on OICs, the use of them as a marketing tactic by tax relief services is questionable at best.

Given the strict requirements on OICs, the use of them as a marketing tactic by tax relief services is questionable at best.

A more likely solution for most taxpayers is to negotiate an installment plan with the IRS. A good tax debt relief specialist searches for ways to reduce your tax bill by amending back tax returns to take full advantage of available deductions and credits.

The specialist then proceeds to negotiate an installment plan with the IRS favorable to your financial situation. Some taxpayers can simply set up their own installment plans. They are satisfied that they've mastered the details of the amount of their tax debt and have a clear picture of how much they can afford to pay each month.

What is a Tax Levy?

A tax levy is an action that the IRS can take in an effort to collect unpaid taxes, without the need for court approval. To put a tax levy in place, the IRS must notify the taxpayer at least thirty days in advance.

Once the levy is in place, the bank can repossess money in your bank account, withhold Social Security payments or tax refunds, or garnish your paycheck. In some circumstances, the IRS can even repossess your home.

In some circumstances, the IRS can even repossess your home.

Because the IRS has so much power to claim unpaid taxes, working the IRS so you can settle the debt on your terms is essential.

Organizations and Affiliations

Check to see if a given tax debt relief service has professional credentials and affiliations such as membership in the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers and National Association of Tax Debt Resolution Companies.

Generally, such associations will revoke membership to firms engaged in unethical or illegal behavior. When dealing with such a high-stakes situation, you want to know that you're working with a firm that holds itself to some level of ethical behavior.

Customer Support and Help Options

Ideally, your tax debt relief service should be available via phone, chat, and online for customer support. It's important to have ready access to knowledgeable and friendly tax debt experts. Check the track record of the company you are considering hiring, what is the tone of customer reviews and feedback?

Knowing When to Go it Alone

Each year, billions of taxes go unpaid, and the IRS is anxious to collect on these back tax debts. In 2006 alone, the IRS estimated that there were $385 billion in unpaid taxes that were owed by American taxpayers. Even federal employees themselves owe more than 3 billion in back taxes, according to USA Today. The IRS goes so far as to publish top tips at their website for taxpayers who owe money, encouraging them to get their tax debts paid.

While less reputable tax debt relief companies will be happy to take your money, the best tax help companies know when you are capable of resolving your issues on your own. During your consultation, the tax specialist may suggest you work with the IRS yourself.

Contrary to popular belief, the IRS is generally willing to work with taxpayers who make a good-faith effort to pay their taxes. If your debt is not large, or you've made small mistakes in previous filings, calling the IRS yourself to set up a payment plan can be quicker and just as effective as hiring a company.

Finding a tax debt relief company willing to tell you when you can handle an issue yourself is a great thing, as many companies offer other tax services, and you'll know that you can trust them.

Penalties for Non-Payment

With the IRS having broad legal powers to collect tax-related debts, it's important to get into compliance with them before you are subject to penalties or punitive actions. The first steps the IRS takes are to charge penalty fees and interest on taxes that are due. This can increase your debt by as much as five to ten percent. The IRS could also withhold future refunds if you fail to file your taxes. Don't expect to get your refund this year if you never filed for last year.

The IRS will attempt to contact you to collect what you owe, but if you refuse to pay, they will use their power to compel you to pay. The IRS is allowed to use techniques such as liens, a right to keep possession of property belonging to another person until a debt owed by that person is paid, or direct seizure of funds from your bank account. If you're eligible for it, the IRS can cut you off from Social Security, seizing your income until the debt is paid.

In the most extreme cases, where the government determines you've willfully failed to file your taxes, you could serve a jail sentence. According to the IRS, the jail time can range from months to years or more. And going to jail still won't get you out of paying your debt.

The IRS is permitted to pursue unpaid taxes for ten years from when they were due, so this is not a problem that will easily go away on its own. Finding the right tax relief company can make what would be a decade-long headache into a minor annoyance.

Tips & Advice

As you consider your options for Tax Debt Relief Services, check our advice guides to become familiar with the concepts and options at work in the world of tax debt relief. You'll learn to look at your tax debt situation from a pragmatic point of view, making an analysis of your overall finances in order to best solve the problem of paying off or otherwise dismissing those back taxes.

  • Are there years you did not file a tax return? It's likely you owe back taxes for those years. Your best course of action is to file all your returns and work out a payment plan. Bottom line, you want to avoid consequences including penalties, interest, aggressive collection efforts such as liens against your assets, and even legal problems. Start with a peek at our how to file back taxes primer.
  • Paying your taxes is part of life. But there's no reason to pay more than you owe. It's in your interest to educate yourself on tax deductions available to a person in your financial position. The dirty little secret every accountant knows is that taxes are fun. The more you know about the tax code, the more money you put in your pocket. A good place to start is to check out these top overlooked tax deductions.
  • The IRS can take possession of your property by filing a tax levy if you do not respond to their efforts to collect on your tax debt. Items that can be seized with a levy include homes, automobiles, and other valuable physical property. If you are subject to a tax levy, or under notice of an impending levy, you certainly should read our piece on removing tax penalties, including specific information on tax levies.
  • Have you received a letter from the IRS asking for more information about your tax return? Bring yourself up to speed on what you need to know about tax audits. Jump right over the fear factor and determine exactly what the IRS wants from you. Brush up on your taxpayer rights. The action required could be as simple as producing additional documents to back up the information on your return.
  • Are you wondering about debt forgiveness and taxes? One consequence of a lender discharging debt is that the IRS taxes you on the canceled debt. Both the IRS and state taxation authorities consider canceled debt as taxable income, as you decrease your liabilities and improve your net worth. Lenders will report the discharged debt to the IRS on a form 1099-C, and you also receive a copy.
  • Savvy taxpayers are aware of each deduction that they are legally entitled too, while tax cheats are guilty of the crime known as tax evasion. Specialists like tax attorneys and accountants make an industry out of tax avoidance, the legal minimization of your tax bill. Legally minimizing your taxes is fair game, but it's critically important to know the distinction between tax avoidance vs. tax evasion.


These five providers rank at the top of the tax relief service industry. Consider each of their service offerings, look into their qualifications and experience, and check out client reviews.

Carefully weigh which is best for your situation, and take advantage of the free consultation to ask for an outline of strategies to resolve your tax debt and come into compliance with the IRS and local tax authorities.

Recovering from tax debt and hoping to bring your credit along for the ride? Check our review of the top credit repair companies. Looking to stay off the IRS' bad side in the first place? Take a look at our review of the best online tax services.

Tax Relief Companies FAQs

QWhat is the Fresh Start initiative?


The Fresh Start Penalty Relief Initiative was created by the IRS to help taxpayers avoid tax liens. Under the Fresh Start Initiative, taxpayers can enter into a payment plan with the IRS to repay up to $50,000 in as many as 72 monthly installments. The Offers in Compromise portion of the initiative allows people to settle their tax debt for less than they owe.

QHow can I reduce my tax debt?


There are a number of ways you can reduce your tax debt to the IRS. You can enter into an installment agreement or a partial payment installment agreement. You can make an offer in compromise and settle your debt for less than you owe. You can lower your debt with a debt settlement program, file for bankruptcy or release wage garnishments as well.

QWhat is the meaning of tax relief?


Tax relief is a program that reduces that amount of tax an individual or business owes. There are several examples of tax relief. One is a tax credit that reduces the amount of your taxes. You might get a tax credit for paying for education or if you purchase energy efficient home appliances. Another example is a deduction, which reduces the amount of taxable income you earn.

QWhat is an Offer in Compromise?


An offer in compromise is an agreement between the IRS and a taxpayer. Under the agreement, a person's tax liabilities are settled for less than the amount owed. The IRS might accept an offer in compromise if it is doubtful that the taxpayer will be able to fully pay the full amount owed.

QHow does the tax debt relief process work?


While the process from provider to provider will vary, in general the tax debt relief process consists of a few fundamental steps. First, the company will begin representation by having you fill out several official IRS forms including Form 8821 and 2848. Form 8821 permits the tax debt representative to ascertain your master tax file in order to see an official document of how much you owe and for what years. Form 2848 allows the company to communicate with the IRs on your behalf and request a hold against any further collection action.

What's more, it allows the representative to conduct negotiations to lower the debt. Throughout the process, the tax resolution company should communicate any updates they receive from the IRS pertaining to your case. The remaining steps in the process will vary depending on the progress they make but if all goes well they should be able to come to a resolution or at the least, lower your overall tax burden.

QWho qualifies for tax debt relief?


Tax debt relief is intended for individuals (or businesses) who have a tax debt and are in the process of receiving collection notices for the IRs or another collection agency. Some tax debt relief companies require that you have a minimum tax burden before signing you up with their service. Additionally, they may cover a flat fee depending on the amount you owe. It's important to really explore your options when it comes to tax debt or un-filed tax returns. The longer you put off resolution, the deeper the issue gets.

What's more, a tax debt relief company can sometimes put an end to the collection calls from agencies and other organizations on your behalf. A tax debt relief company is comprised of a team of tax attorneys, agents and other certified public accountants who specialize in a range of tax dilemmas. Even if you don't suffer from excessive tax debt they may have services to accommodate your financial situation.

QWhat is an offer in compromise?


You'll see the term offer in compromise being touted by many tax debt relief services. Essentially this is an agreement made between the taxpayer who owes the debt and the IRS. The agreement is to settle the debt for less than the actual amount and is usually paid in a lump sum or through installment payments. Typically, the IRS will agree to an offer in compromise when they can relatively determine that the original amount will not be collectable in full. The other time you may get an offer in compromise is if you have tax debt doubt (doubt as to liability).

If you possess legitimate doubt that you owe the stated amount, you may opt for an offer in compromise. The last instance this may be selected is if the IRS see's tangible evidence that the payment would cause undue hardship to the taxpayer or their family. There may be other instances when an offer in compromise might be appropriate but it's best to consult your tax debt relief company first.

QWhen can I use Tax Relief?


You can use a tax relief service when you have outstanding debt and owe money. Services that help you with debt relief assess your specific situation and work with you to cultivate a resolution.

QWhat should I consider when looking for a tax debt relief service?


Before settling on a service, be sure to adequately research which tax debt relief is right for you- some offer different services than the competitor. Some factors to consider when choosing a service are whether or not they assist in areas such as federal, state and/or municipal tax services, if their CPA's are available and properly certified, etc.

QWhat fees are involved?


There is a fee structure in which every tax relief service operates by. Some services offer a flat rate while others require a retainer. Look for transparency when choosing a tax debt relief company to ensure that you will be involved in every aspect of the service. If the company is beating around the bush when you ask them a question, they may not be upfront about their fees and costs.

QWhat kind of service will I receive through a tax relief company?


You must first figure out what you want from a tax debt relief service. Are you looking for taxpayer options, installment plans, modifying back returns? You must verify that they are giving you the exact service that you expect. A tax service professional will work with you to create a detailed breakdown of your financial position. The specialist will determine the best financial plan for you – one that is realistic.

QWhat companies offer tax debt relief?


There are many companies out there who want your business. Your job is to carefully research and decipher which one has your best interests at heart. Some of the most popular companies are Tax Defense Network, Optima Tax Debt Relief, The CuraDebt, Tax Defense Partners, and Tax Tiger.

QWhat is some advice for tax debt relief?


Become familiar with the various facets of relief that work for you. Through the service, you will be able to look at your tax debt through a new lens and actually understand it through thorough analysis. When everything is laid out on the table, it will be easier for you to understand where you are positioned. It's important to always file your taxes on time. If you don't, then you risk a missed tax payment in the future. The IRS can hold your assets and possessions against you if you do not have adequate funds to pay taxes – make sure to always file your taxes.

QWho qualifies for tax debt relief?


You are eligible for tax debt relief is you have tax debt and are in the course of getting collection notices for the IRS or other collection organizations. It's essential that you rid your tax debt as soon as you're aware that you have it to avoid additional costs down the road.

QHow can I contact the company when I need assistance?


A transparent debt relief company will provide you with amazing customer service and will be available through phone, customer support as well as online chat.

QHow do I know if the company I choose is right for me?


It's important to read reviews on the company to verify that it is a legitimate company. Positive feedback from former customers is a great way to decide whether the company you are going to go with, is reputable and has the best interest of the client.

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