Tax debt is more common than you might think. In 2018, a total of 13.1 million Americans were behind on their taxes—nearly one in 20 citizens. Delinquencies totaled $128 billion, just shy of $10,000 per person on average.
So what do you do when you fall into five figures of debt with the IRS? Tax delinquency can lead to wage garnishment and asset seizure, which will further impact your finances and might even send you spiraling deeper into debt. This is when some people turn to tax relief companies as an option.
Tax relief companies are sometimes thought to be disreputable due to customer complaints about false promises, high fees, and even downright scams. While it’s absolutely true that the tax relief industry has some bad players, there are also plenty of reputable tax relief companies with proven records of success. To help you tell the difference, we’ve rounded up the seven most trustworthy tax relief companies in the business.
The 7 Best Tax Relief Companies of 2020
Precision Tax Relief comes out a clear winner across all categories, including the company’s generous money-back guarantee, transparent pricing, and convenient communications channels. We found this to be the most trustworthy tax relief company that we evaluated.
Offers a 30-day money-back guarantee
All-inclusive flat-rate fee
Customer service available by phone, text, email, and live chat
In business since 2011
Doesn’t handle standalone state tax debt
No tax audit representation
Limited online resources
Reputable tax relief companies are hard to come by, but Precision Tax Relief rose to the top in nearly every aspect of our analysis. First and foremost is the company’s 30-day money-back guarantee, one of the longest in the industry. This guarantees a return of your funds if you’re not happy with the service provided during the first month.
The company bases its pricing on a flat-rate fee that is presented during a free consultation. The only way your fee will increase is if the scope of work changes from your initial quote due to new information that was not provided during your consultation. Payment options are flexible with a choice between one lump-sum payment or a zero-interest payment plan. There is a standard minimum debt requirement of $10,000.
Precision Tax Relief has been in business since 2011 and offers convenient customer service options via phone, text message, email, and live chat. The company is certified by the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers (ASTPS), which is awarded to CPAs with a proven ability to solve a range of problems with the IRS.
The company does have a few limitations. For example, they don’t offer tax audit representation, a service available from many competitors. Precision Tax Relief also won’t handle state tax debt on its own; it works exclusively with federal taxes owed to the IRS.
Anthem Tax Services’ money-back guarantee is the only one of its kind in the tax relief industry. The guarantee has no time limit and promises to return your fees should the company fail to make any change to your IRS tax debt repayment schedule.
Offers a money-back guarantee with no time limit
Payment plans available
Accredited by NATP and NAEA
Money-back guarantee doesn’t ensure reduced total payment amount
Mixed customer reviews
No consumer education focus
Many tax relief companies don’t offer a money-back guarantee at all. Others offer a full refund for the first 14 or even 30 days. Anthem Tax Services, however, offers a unique, no-time-limit guarantee. If the IRS refuses to reduce either your total debt or your monthly payment amount, the company will refund any fees paid for its services.
One important note here: Anthem Tax Services’ money-back guarantee doesn’t constitute a promise to reduce your total tax liability to the IRS. It’s entirely possible that the company will only be able to reduce your current monthly payment, meaning you’ll still have the same amount of debt, it will just be paid back in smaller amounts over a longer period of time. This may reduce the immediate financial burden but won’t save you any money in the long term.
Anthem Tax Services charges a flat-rate fee that is determined on a case-by-case basis. This fee can be broken down into a payment plan for those who can’t afford to pay upfront. The company is accredited by both the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) and the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA).
We did notice a handful of customer reviews for Anthem Tax Services complaining about a lack of regular communication and updates. While reviews are still overall positive, with the company earning four out of five stars on most review sites, this is something to keep in mind. If you do decide to contact Anthem, it might be a good idea to ask upfront about what you can expect in terms of communications and updates from your case manager.
If you have a large tax debt, standard percentage-based fees will vastly overcharge you compared to the amount of work required for your case. Fortress Tax Relief’s hourly-based fee structure gives you the best opportunity for savings with a major IRS tax debt.
No percentage-based fee structure
Offers a monetary customer service guarantee
Handles state tax debt in all 50 states
Minimum tax debt of $15,000
Not accredited by any industry organizations
Limited business services
It’s common for tax relief companies to calculate fees based on a percentage of the overall tax debt you currently owe to the IRS. With large tax debt, this can quickly add up to an exorbitant amount that doesn’t reflect the number of hours required to resolve a higher-debt case. For example, a $20,000 debt probably won’t take twice the amount of work to resolve compared to a $10,000 debt.
Fortress Tax Relief offers a unique approach by generating quotes based on the estimated time required, with attorneys billed at $275 per hour. For consumers with large amounts of tax debt, this means you’ll probably pay significantly less than you would with percentage-based tax relief companies. (Still, it never hurts to get a few quotes from different companies just to make sure.)
There are a few other perks to working with Fortress Tax Relief, including their comprehensive customer service guarantee. Clients with active cases are guaranteed to have their phone calls and emails returned within two business days. If the company fails to meet this promise more than once, the client will receive a $100 account credit for each subsequent occurrence.
While Fortress Tax Relief provides individual state tax debt services in all 50 states, its business services are relatively limited. The company is also not a member of any of the common industry accreditation organizations.
CommunityTax doesn’t have the lowest minimum debt requirement in the tax relief industry, but we still felt it deserved the Best for Small Tax Debt title due to its ample resources and services aimed at those with lower amounts of debt. Individuals with tax debt under $10,000 may even find all the help they need for free through CommunityTax’s generous free online resource library and mobile app.
Minimum tax debt of $5,000
Offers a 14-day money-back guarantee
IRS-approved continuing education provider
Free Community Tax Assurance Program with mobile app
Pricing less straightforward than competitors
Some consumer complaints regarding state tax issues
Chat support lacks functionality
Generally speaking, tax debts under $10,000 aren’t worth paying a tax relief company to settle; you can usually settle them yourself without much issue. However, some people still may wish to have some professional assistance if they’re struggling to resolve a small tax debt. CommunityTax will accept cases with tax debt as low as $5,000, among the lowest of all competitors. On top of this, the company offers many resources and services that are particularly valuable to those with small tax debt.
CommunityTax’s website is a trove of free resources that include guides, videos, and links to relevant IRS resources. This is a great place to start to see if your small tax debt requires the help of a professional at all. You might even find that the free information available through the CommunityTax website is enough to guide you through the process on your own.
In fact, CommunityTax is an IRS Approved Continuing Education Provider, which means the company is authorized to provide continuing education programs to tax professionals. Due to this, we have confidence not only in the information available through the company’s website but also in the knowledgeability of CommunityTax case managers.
In addition to free resources, CommunityTax offers a free program called the Community Tax Assurance Program (TAP). (Upgraded versions are available at $34.99 per month for individuals and $99.99 per month for businesses.) The free program includes access to a mobile app that performs tax account monitoring, access to your IRS transcripts, and quarterly tax reports. TAP is designed as a preventive solution to keep taxpayers from falling behind on payments in the first place with better education and preparation. If you’re struggling with a small amount of tax debt, this program could help you continue to stay out of debt after you’ve resolved your current financial situation.
Although we were impressed by CommunityTax’s 14-day customer service guarantee, we found the company’s fee structure to be less transparent than some competitors. We were advised that depending on the scenario, some customers pay a flat fee upfront while others might incur ongoing charges.
We also noticed a trend in some customer reviews of issues with CommunityTax’s handling of state tax debt. However, it’s worth noting that these complaints were satisfactorily resolved by the business in the vast majority of cases.
Small business owners will find that Enterprise Consultants Group is a one-stop-shop for business tax needs. From payroll taxes to tax audit representation, we’re confident that you’ll find the best business services here.
Full range of small business services
Accredited by NATP
Consultation includes free IRS transcript analysis
Few online resources
State tax services mostly California-specific
Even though most tax relief companies offer services for both individuals and businesses, they’re generally more cut out for individual tax debt. This could not be further from the truth for Enterprise Consultants Group. The company offers the most well-rounded catalog of business services we could find among all tax relief organizations. Services tailored to small businesses include tax-related issues such as payroll tax resolution and tax accounting, in addition to business licensing, registered agent services, and other needs requiring an accountant or lawyer.
Enterprise Consultants Group offers a free consultation, which is standard among tax relief companies. However, the group includes a free IRS transcript analysis for individuals and businesses. This is something most competitors charge for, so it’s a great value with no commitment.
Enterprise Consultants Group is accredited by the NATP and holds additional law-related credentials. However, the company doesn’t offer a guarantee, and we were disappointed by the lack of resources on their website. We also found that most of their state tax services were tailored toward individuals and businesses in California, where the company is headquartered. This doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t handle a case involving state tax debt from another state, but it’s certainly something to ask about during a consultation.
Tax Defense Network offers bilingual tax assistance to those who speak Spanish and may be struggling to communicate with the IRS. With the company’s long-standing good record, we’d recommend them as a trusted intermediary for Spanish speakers with tax debt.
Offers tax relief services in English and Spanish
Minimum debt of $2,500
In business since 1997
Website only available in English
Not accredited by any industry organizations
Dealing with the IRS on your own can be overwhelming, but even more so when English isn’t your first language. If someone you know is struggling with tax debt and speaks Spanish as a native language, Tax Defense Network can help. The company has bilingual tax professionals on staff and a dedicated customer service line for assistance in Spanish.
Tax Defense Network requires an extremely low minimum debt of $2,500. To be clear, this is not an amount we’d recommend getting paid help for through a tax relief company in most cases. However, in situations where the debtor is struggling to communicate with the IRS due to a language barrier, we can see how a tax relief company would provide value for lower debt amounts.
Having started in 1997, Tax Defense Network is a well-established tax relief company with an overall positive record. However, we wish they offered an initial money-back guarantee of at least 14 days to better protect customers. We also noted that the company isn’t recognized by any of the major industry organizations for accreditation.
ALG Tax Solutions offers a complete library of free educational resources designed to empower consumers and prevent future tax debt. We appreciate the company’s commitment to helping customers find the best solution for their personal situation, regardless of whether that solution includes paid tax relief services. This earns ALG Tax Solutions its place as the tax relief company with the Best Resources.
Online library with free eBooks, calculators, and resources
Offers services tailored to individuals, self-employed, and businesses
Low-cost tax help evaluation available
Not recognized by major tax industry accreditation organizations
Only helps with state taxes in Michigan
One of the best indicators that a tax relief company has your best interests in mind is an education-based approach. With educational resources, tax relief companies can empower their customers with the knowledge and skills required to prevent further tax debt. This is exactly what ALG Tax Solutions does with its online resource library.
ALG Tax Solutions’ free resources include online calculators, eBooks, and other useful tools. For example, the company offers a free online meter called the IRS Letter Decoder which shows you how serious a notice from the IRS is simply by entering a code found on the letter. ALG Tax Solutions claims to have helped more than 15,000 people learn about taxes since the company was founded in 2013.
ALG Tax Solutions also offers a standalone service called a tax help evaluation, a relatively low-cost option in which a tax professional reviews your tax documentation, conducts a full financial review, and provides recommendations for how to proceed. There’s no obligation to sign up for further tax relief services with ALG Tax Solutions after completing this service. In fact, the professional who reviews your case may even recommend steps to resolve the situation on your own.
One drawback to working with ALG Tax Solutions is that the company really only provides assistance for federal IRS taxes. State tax services are available for individuals and businesses located in Michigan only. ALG Tax Solutions offers no guarantee on its services and isn’t recognized by any leading tax industry organizations. However, it is accredited by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).
What Is a Tax Relief Company?
Tax relief companies, also known as tax settlement firms, are for-profit organizations that offer to negotiate with the IRS to reduce your overall debt or monthly payment. The companies charge a fee in exchange for this service, but customers hope that the fee eventually pays for itself due to the company’s higher chance of success in negotiating better terms.
Taxpayers usually contact tax relief companies when they have received multiple notices from the IRS regarding debt and are now afraid they may face wage garnishment or asset seizure. Generally speaking, it only makes sense to contact a tax relief company if you owe at least $10,000. Anything below this means the company’s fees won’t be worth it in most cases.
Do Those Tax Relief Companies Really Work?
Tax relief companies have a bad reputation that comes from an industry littered with poor business practices and scams. Disreputable tax relief companies may lure customers in with false promises, continue upcharging them with more fees, and eventually leave them in worse debt than they began with.
On the other hand, good tax relief companies will be honest about whether or not you can benefit from their services, won’t make any promises about specific outcomes, and will charge up-front transparent fees. We’ve also found that the most reputable tax relief companies involve customers in the process through education and resources, hoping to set the customer up for long-term success to avoid recurring tax debt in the future.
The bottom line is that it’s important to realize that tax relief companies don’t do anything you couldn’t technically do on your own by working directly with the IRS. The idea is that, as experienced professionals, tax relief companies will pay for themselves by negotiating more effectively and generating a better outcome.
What Does Tax Relief Include?
The tax relief process usually begins with a free consultation, during which a case manager will review your current tax debt and present you with a quote for continued service. Once you’ve accepted, the case manager will begin an in-depth investigation into your taxes and come up with the best plan of action. Finally, they’ll negotiate with the IRS to get the best possible outcome for you.
How Much Does a Tax Relief Company Charge?
Tax relief companies set prices on a case-by-case basis that involves many factors, such as the total amount owed, type of solution required, and services included. Some tax relief companies charge a flat percentage of the amount owed to the IRS, such as 10%. Others charge based on an hourly rate, which can be anywhere from $275 up to $1,000. In any case, you should anticipate paying a few hundred dollars for an in-depth tax review and a bare minimum of $1,000 for tax settlement, which goes up significantly with higher debt amounts.
How We Chose the Tax Relief Companies
For this analysis, we began by evaluating 23 tax relief companies and scoring them based on a number of criteria. We only evaluated companies that offered free consultations, had been in business for at least five years, and had no complaints filed with the FTC or CFPB.
We then took a look at the types of services offered and evaluated the company’s customer service. We analyzed customer reviews using the Better Business Bureau and other review websites, taking into consideration any relevant certifications or accreditations. Finally, we asked about the company’s pricing structure, minimum debt amounts, and any money-back guarantees.
Internal Revenue Service. "SOI Tax Stats - Delinquent Collection Activities - IRS Data Book Table 16." Accessed June 8, 2020.