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Do I need to speak with a lawyer before an IRS audit?

The word "audit" has a way of striking fear into the heart of any taxpayer. Notification by the Internal Revenue Service or Minnesota Department of Revenue that your tax history and filing practices are going to be put under the microscope is never a comfortable situation. One way to maintain a sense of composure is to seek qualified legal advice well before the date of that audit.

Justifying the numbers and claims on your tax returns is a significant part of responding to a tax audit. Assembling all the evidence and framing the data in a way that will address what an auditor might be looking for is something you and your personal accountant are in the best position to handle. But the legal ramifications require something more.

By working with an attorney it will be possible to assess the big picture and identify how matters are likely to be interpreted in the legal context. If you are in any way vulnerable for some reason, the attorney can help identify where those vulnerabilities are and what options may be available if something does develop on the legal front.

If an audit results in fines or penalties against you, negotiations with the government may be needed and this is another area where the specific skill of an attorney become beneficial. Certain conditions may make it possible for you to pursue an offer in compromise. An attorney will be able to tell if you qualify and how to proceed if you do.

And, of course, if litigation becomes impossible to avoid, the protection of your rights and your interests will best be served by having skilled representation at your side.

The point is to have that help with you earlier rather than later.

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