Should You Represent Yourself in an IRS Investigation?

legal counselIf you have a choice between retaining legal counsel or taking on the IRS by yourself, what is your best option?


You may wonder how you would end up in court with the IRS at all. It is actually not too difficult. We talked previously about tax audits. Civil tax audits are initiated with a letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and they end with one of three outcomes. Those three outcomes are:

  • There is nothing amiss with your tax filings or other reports, so the audit concludes.
  • The audit turned up a problem that leaves you in arrears. You decide to work with the IRS and pay the identified gap in taxes.
  • The audit turned up a problem that leaves in you in arrears to the IRS, and you choose to contest the finding.


When you choose to challenge a finding of the IRS, you are on your way to Tax Court.


There are a number of other routes to the US Tax Court as well. For example, if you did not file your tax return, you may receive a CP3219N Notice. Sounds dull but it is basically a 90-day notice to pay the calculated tax, penalty, and interest or file a petition with the US Tax Court for review. 


What is the US Tax Court?

As the name implies, the Court is a federal entity that is set up to hear only tax matters. The Court operates independently of the IRS to settle differences between taxpayers (petitioners) and the IRS (the respondent). Think of it as the right place to sue the IRS if you feel the IRS did not make the right decision during your tax audit.


In Tax Court, the petitioner (or taxpayer) has the burden of proving their case. This means presentation of compelling evidence and documentation to prove your point. During your hearing, you present evidence, the IRS responds with their evidence and the judge takes the matter under advisement. There is no jury and a decision will be mailed to you and to the IRS when the judge has reached a conclusion.


"Pro Se" representation or representing yourself

You can choose to represent yourself, or you can retain a tax lawyer to present your case to the Tax Court. You can also bring a non-lawyer, but the individual must be qualified for admission to practice before the Tax Court.


While you may represent yourself, the IRS is always represented by tax attorneys with specialized experience in the Tax Court. Regardless of your passion and belief in your narrative, you may find it difficult to present a convincing case, especially if significant financial loss and penalties are in the offing.


Choosing your representation in any court is an important decision. If considering self-representation, think about speaking with a straightforward, experienced tax attorney to help you understand what you stand to gain—or lose—by representing yourself on litigated tax matters with the IRS.


Seasoned Chicago tax attorneys help you with tax litigation or civil tax audits

With offices in Chicago and Cleveland, the legal group at Robert J. Fedor, Esq., LLC offers sound and strategic solutions when you are facing allegations of tax crime, offshore tax irregularities or other tax controversy. When you need experienced legal advice locally or internationally, call 800-579-0997 or contact us.


Download Five Ways to Avoid a Tax Audit eBook