Starting & Growing A Tax Debt Resolution Firm

Part of my mission is to provide small firms and independent tax professionals with the resources to compete against the large, national tax resolution firms. This comes from a belief that the majority of tax debtors are better off working with a local practitioner (you), or at the very least working with somebody that is actually licensed to practice and is going to operate ethically and responsibly. This is why I launched the Tax Resolution Leadership Program, because there is a distinct lack of leadership within the tax debt representation industry.

“How do I get started in offering tax resolution services to new clients?” is one of the most common questions that I receive from readers.

There is, of course, a lot of material here on the TaxMarketingHQ.com blog, most of it related to new lead generation, prospect follow up, practice management systems, and closing tax resolution sales. So, my goal with this resource page is to organize the blog posts for you into a more user-friendly format and show you how to get started with offering taxpayer representation within your existing tax or accounting practice.

Before Getting Started

If you have an existing tax practice, you should know up front that there is a steep learning curve to doing IRS collections representation. It’s an entire new set of laws, regulations, procedures, forms, publications, and more. Adding a major new service offering to your practice is a significant undertaking, but tax resolution work is also one of the highest dollar-per-hour services you can offer.

Don’t underestimate the amount of time and money you’re going to have to invest in starting or growing a tax resolution practice. It’s no different than expanding into wealth management, estate planning, business valuation, etc. Any new service offering is almost like starting an entirely new business. The fact that you have existing clients and resources to draw from makes it far easier, of course, but it’s still a significant undertaking, not to be taken lightly.

With that said, I have a fairly specific philosophy about getting started doing tax resolution work. Many people will disagree with me on this, and that’s fine, but I’ve found the most success with direct consulting clients by doing things this way: First get the clients, then learn the case work.

Does this make your first few tax debt cases your guinea pigs? Yes, it sure does. But I also think it’s much easier to learn this way — in real time, with real situations.

Ready to get started? Then let’s get you started…

Step 1: Find taxpayers that need your help.

Most tax professionals get their first tax debt representation case from an existing client. Perhaps you do a tax return for somebody that results in a 1040 liability they can’t pay, and they ask for your help on it. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t shy away from the opportunity — embrace it.

In this situation, one of the biggest mistakes I see practitioners making these days is that they don’t charge for this service. Even if you’re just completing a basic Form 9465 for a 1040 liability under $10,000, you need to realize that this service is more valuable than the tax return. Too many tax practitioners devalue their own time and services by just including this form of minor tax debt resolution with the tax prep fee. Don’t work for free.

If you want to do tax resolution but don’t have somebody asking for immediate help, then go through old client files to find folks that you can contact and ask them if they need help. This is the most fundamental form of tax resolution marketing that you can do. Check out this article on compiling client reactivation lists, and apply that information to getting some tax resolution work. Also see this post for an example letter to send, and modify that to tax resolution purposes.

After exhausting your existing client lists and referral sources, it’s time to go outside your existing client relationships. If you’re completely new to marketing, watch this video that covers marketing fundamentals.

With some basic marketing fundamentals under your hat, proceed to one of the complete marketing plans that I outline here on the blog:

Step 2: Get paid.

So you’ve got one or more taxpayers that need your help. The next step, which is an uncomfortable reality for many tax professionals, is that you need to close the sale and get paid. What I’m talking about here includes stuff like sales training, engagement letters, and learning how to price your tax resolution services.

For sales closing checklists, suggested client payment guidelines, and fee quotation examples, take a gander at Tax Resolution Systems.

Step 3: Represent.

Your new client, that is. This is the case work part. This itself is an exhaustive subject. Learning how to represent clients involves both knowledge and skill… It’s both art and science, if you will.

This is an extremely difficult subject to cover in a blog format, which is why I don’t try to. What I can do, however, is point you in the direction of some good resources for learning the technical side of case work:

  1. Grab some caffeine and read the Internal Revenue Manual. It’s far from sexy, but it’s generally well written and comes straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth. IRM Part 5 discusses field collections procedures.
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  3. Read my book Tax Resolution Secrets. Yes, this book was written for consumers with 1040 tax debts, but it’s a great primer (I’m biased, obviously) for case work, plus it’s less than $30.
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  5. I post video replays of many of my CPE webinars onto my Tax Resolution Training YouTube channel.
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  7. The National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) offers their NTPI program. The NTPI Level 1 program can be completed entirely online, qualifies for CPE credit, and provides a decent foundation in IRS representation. If you’re not an NAEA member, the cost of the program is $768. The Level II and III programs are only available at live NAEA conferences. I took Level I online, and attended Level II in Las Vegas in August 2016. With hotel, airfare, meals, and registration (itself a whopping $895), I spent nearly $2,500 to attend Level II. Quite frankly, I was disappointed with it, and most of the other people sitting at my tables during the breakout sessions were totally lost. During one session in particular, the instructor presented three specific IRS procedural things that were, pure and simple, WRONG. All in all, I was grossly disappointed with NTPI Level II, and cannot recommend it. I will definitely NOT be attending Level III myself.
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  9. My full IRS Collections Representation Boot Camp is an intensive training program for learning IRS collections representation, and is a bargain compared to NTPI, at only $597. I had never looked at the NTPI course outlines until I actually attended, and based on the course contents posted at the NAEA web site, my boot camp provides a more in-depth education on the subject of Collections representation (tax resolution). However, my course does not cover examination (audit) and Criminal Investigation Division (CID) situations — I focus strictly on all things related to collections (including ACS, Revenue Officers, Appeals, Taxpayer Advocate, Technical Advisory Group, etc). If you want the deep dive on Collections, go for my course. If you also need the basic of Examination and CID, purchase the NTPI Level 1 modules specific to those topics.