Updated: Sep 18
Watch out for Offer in Compromise "mills"
As part of the annual Dirty Dozen tax scams series, the Internal Revenue Service today renewed a warning about so-called Offer in Compromise “mills” that often mislead taxpayers into believing they can settle a tax debt for pennies on the dollar. The tax practitioner landscape is littered with former Offer mills - J.K. Harris, Taxmasters and Roni Deutch - that were thankfully put out of business.
The IRS continues to see instances of heavily advertised promises offering to settle taxpayer debt at steep discounts. The IRS sees many situations where taxpayers don’t meet the technical requirements for an offer, but they had to face excessive fees from promoters for information they can easily obtain themselves.
Offer in Compromise mills highlight day nine of the Dirty Dozen series. Offers in Compromise are an important program to help people who can’t pay to settle their federal tax debts. But “mills” can aggressively promote Offers in Compromise in misleading ways to people who clearly don’t meet the qualifications, frequently costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.
A taxpayer can check their eligibility for free using the IRS’s Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool.
“Too often, we see some unscrupulous promoters mislead taxpayers into thinking they can magically get rid of a tax debt,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “This is a legitimate IRS program, but there are specific requirements for people to qualify. People desperate for help can make a costly mistake if they clearly don’t qualify for the program. Before using an aggressive promoter, we encourage people to review readily available IRS resources to help resolve a tax debt on their own without facing hefty fees..”
What is an Offer in Compromise?
An Offer in Compromise (OIC) is when the taxpayer works with the IRS to settle a tax debt for less than the full amount owed. It is an option for those unable to pay the full tax liability or if doing so creates a financial hardship. The IRS takes in consideration each unique set of facts and circumstances. This agreement can happen directly between the taxpayer and the IRS without a third party.
An Offer in Compromise "mill" will usually make outlandish claims, frequently in radio and TV ads, about how they can settle a person’s tax debt for cheap. In reality, the promoter fees are often excessive, and taxpayers pay the OIC mill to get the same deal they could have received on their own by working directly with the IRS. This takes unnecessary money out of the taxpayer’s wallet.
In addition, not every taxpayer will qualify for an OIC. Some promoters knowingly advise indebted taxpayers to file an OIC application even though the promoters know the person will not qualify, costing honest taxpayers money and time
To report an abusive tax scheme or a tax return preparer, people should mail or fax a completed Form 14242, Report Suspected Abusive Tax Promotions or Preparers and any supporting material to the IRS Lead Development Center in the Office of Promoter Investigations.
Mail: Internal Revenue Service Lead Development Center Stop MS5040 24000 Avila Road Laguna Niguel, California 92677-3405 Fax: 877-477-9135
About the author
Mark W. Sullivan, EA founded Sullivan Consulting in 1998. He specializes in federal tax controversy representation, appeals and consulting on behalf of individuals, businesses, law, and accounting firms nationwide. In addition, he has served as the consulting and expert witness in numerous civil and criminal cases in multiple federal district courts.
Mark has an unlimited Enrolled Agents license and is admitted to practice before the Internal Revenue Service based on his extensive experience as a Revenue Officer in New York, NY, St. Louis, MO and Washington, D.C..
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Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and cannot be cited as precedent or relied upon in a tax dispute before the IRS.