The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Business

April 22, 2013

The Color of Money: Be your own savior with the IRS

Millions of Americans scrambled to get their taxes done and paid by April 15.

The majority of filers -- three out of four -- get refunds. This year the refunds were pretty large, on average $3,000.

But what if you didn't hustle to file because you couldn't pay? Or maybe you did file but couldn't pay all that you owed? One in six taxpayers owes money, according to the IRS.

Increasingly, I run into people with tax collection issues. Many are entrepreneurs. In struggling to keep their businesses running, they didn't pay estimated taxes during the year. So they end up owing the government lots of money.

Fearing the IRS will move aggressively to collect, they don't call or respond to letters from the agency. Instead, they gravitate to the voices that offer too-good-to-be true deliverance.

 "If you owe $10,000 or more to the IRS, call for a free tax consultation," the saviors say. "We can stop IRS liens, levies and wage garnishment."

Have faith, the tax-relief companies encourage. Through working with their team of tax experts, often claimed to be former IRS agents, they guarantee that they can help you escape most of their tax obligations, including penalties.

But as it says in scripture, "faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

In the case of tax debt, you can believe if you want that there is some quick fix or a former IRS worker who knows the secret to getting tax relief. But this kind of blind faith in a debt-settlement company is likely to leave you deeper in debt and still stuck with a tax bill. Many of the companies require thousands of dollars in upfront, nonrefundable fees, money you could apply to your taxes.

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