Approximately 114 million Americans had unpaid tax debt in 2018, according to figures from the Internal Revenue Service. The total dollar amount equaled $131 billion in tax debt, including penalties and interest that year.
Many people fall into tax debt because they don’t realize how much they owe due to filing errors or incomplete bookkeeping records. Others don’t have the money to pay their taxes.
Some think they can avoid filing taxes and it won’t catch up with them. But the U.S. government earns too much revenue from taxes to let taxpayers slide.
In 2018, the IRS filed 410,220 federal tax liens and 639,025 notices of levies. The agency seized the property of 275,000 taxpayers. Ignoring tax debt is rarely a solution to a problem that will only grow over time as fines, late fees, and interest charges pile up.
Tax relief companies can help taxpayers resolve unpaid state and federal tax debt. These companies use the programs available through the IRS to help reduce or even eliminate tax debt. We reviewed dozens of tax debt relief companies to find the five best that you can trust to help settle your IRS tax debt.
Best Overall : Tax Defense Network
Tax Defense Network (TDN) is a reputable tax debt relief firm consumers can trust. Garnering five stars on Google reviews, 4.5 stars on the Better Business Bureau website, and an A+ rating with the BBB, TDN has been in business since 1997. These sound customer reviews and long history in business are why we named TDN our best tax relief company overall. TDN is owned by MoneySolver, a national financial firm, and is one of the most well-known names in tax debt relief.
TDN charges a flat-rate fee and will not work with customers who owe less than $10,000 in tax debt. Average prices range from $2,500 to $3,500, although pricing depends on the complexity of the case and the amount of taxes owed. TDN offers a free consultation as well as a three-day window to request a refund, which is less than some other companies offer.
The company offers financing options for customers who cannot afford to pay the full rate upfront.
TDN offers tax preparation services, representation during an audit, and tax debt relief services that include helping taxpayers file an offer-in-compromise, innocent spouse relief, currently-not-collectible (CNC) status, or an installment agreement. The company provides support for businesses and individuals and can assist with state or federal taxes, including payroll taxes.
Runner-Up, Best Overall : Community Tax
Highly rated on consumer review websites and providing a free consultation for taxpayers, Community Tax earned our runner-up slot as one of the best overall tax debt relief companies. Based in Chicago, Community Tax helps taxpayers nationwide, settling millions in federal and state tax debt for businesses and individuals monthly.
The company also provides tax preparation and outsourced bookkeeping and accounting services for small-to-mid-size businesses The company’s tax attorneys can also defend you during an IRS audit. Tax debt solutions include offers-in-compromise, installment agreements, and innocent spouse relief. However, the company usually doesn’t work with taxpayers who owe less than $10,000 in tax debt.
The details of tax debt cases vary widely, but most customers who qualify for tax debt relief see results within about four months when working with Community Tax. If you aren’t happy with the service you receive, you can cancel for a full refund within three to 10 business days, depending on the rules for the state where you live.
Community Tax has been in business for 10 years, a testament to its results for taxpayers and its trustworthiness. In an industry where companies come and go, Community Tax has proven its reliability. The company has maintained Better Business Bureau accreditation since 2015 with an A+ rating, and also has an average of 4.5 stars based on consumer reviews on the BBB site.
Community Tax does not publish prices, but it charges a fixed rate fee that will not change after your initial price quote.
Best User Experience : Optima Tax Relief
Comprised of a team of tax attorneys in Santa Ana, California, Optima Tax Relief has superior consumer ratings on a number of websites, including Google, where it earned an average of 3.9 stars across 839 reviews. It also has an average of 4.75 stars on the Better Business Bureau website and has been accredited with an A+ rating since 2012, just one year after its launch.
Optima’s prices start at $495 for assistance with tax relief, but that would be for a very simple case with a quick resolution. The average taxpayer might pay as much as $4,000 for tax relief services through Optima. Like many other tax debt relief firms, the company will only work with taxpayers who owe $10,000 or more in tax debt. Optima offers a full money-back guarantee within the first 15 days of working with the company.
Like the other companies, Optima helps businesses and individuals with tax preparation, representation during an audit, and tax debt relief solutions. Optima Tax also provides a three-tiered Protection Plan, starting at $29.99 a month. The plan provides tax services and identity theft protection. The highest tier, the Professional Plan, seeks to assist self-employed individuals and 1099 contractors with tax services, audit defense services, and bookkeeping.
The company’s password-protected client portal makes it easier for taxpayers to check the status of their case with Optima Tax Relief and helps put Optima at number 3 on our list of best tax debt relief companies, offering a superior user experience.
Best Quick Relief : Anthem Tax Services
Unlike TDN, Community Tax, and Optima, Anthem Tax Services will help taxpayers who owe as little as $7,500 in IRS tax debt. Prices are not available on the website.
Located in Woodland Hills, California, Anthem Tax Services earned an average of four stars based on 100 reviews on Google. It earned an A- rating on the Better Business Bureau website, with an average four-star rating based on 39 reviews. It has been in business since 2011 but was only accredited in 2017.
Like the other companies on our list, Anthem Tax Services offers tax debt relief, tax filing, and back taxes, as well as tax preparation. It specializes in helping truck drivers and other 1099 contractors and self-employed individuals with tax debt relief and accounting services.
You can visit Anthem Tax Services's website or call 844-377-6553 to get assistance with offers-in-compromise, CNC status, innocent spouse relief, and installment agreements. The company can help with state or federal taxes.
Anthem Tax Services earned the designation of Best for Fast Results because it may be able to settle your tax case in as little as one week, and rarely takes more than four months.
Best Value : Stop IRS Debt
Stop IRS Debt, based in Encino, California, has been in business since 2001. Well-established tax debt relief companies are more likely to be reputable and provide a satisfactory customer service experience and high value for consumers.
Unlike many of the other tax debt relief companies reviewed, Stop IRS Debt shared pricing estimates on its website, which is why we chose the company for best value.
Tax returns may cost just a few hundred dollars, while simple tax resolution services range from $1,500 to $2,500. The company also offers a free consultation and is quick to point out that more complex cases can cost much more.
The company has an A- rating with the Better Business Bureau and has been accredited since 2011. It has earned an average of 3 stars on the BBB website, though there are some negative reviews on the BBB site as well as in other places. The company was good about responding to customer complaints on the BBB website.
Unlike other companies on this list, Stop IRS Debt can help businesses and individuals with as little as $5,000 in tax debt. This could account for its negative reviews, as the IRS is less likely to negotiate with taxpayers who owe less than $10,000. Many of the IRS programs available for businesses and individuals who owe more than $10,000 are just not available.
A handful of negative reviews stated that the company did not resolve their tax debt and also did not return calls, although these taxpayers did not say how much they owed the IRS.
Stop IRS Debt can assist customers in applying for offers-in-compromise, currently-not-collectible status, installment agreements, or innocent spouse relief, just like the other firms on this list.
What Is a Tax Relief Company?
Tax relief companies rely on their extensive knowledge of tax laws and established relationships with IRS agents to help taxpayers resolve unpaid tax debt. Tax relief companies often hire tax lawyers, certified public accountants (CPAs), and even former IRS agents to deliver service to their customers.
Many tax debt relief firms advertise that they can reduce or eliminate tax debt, penalties, and late fees.
How Does Tax Relief Work?
Most tax relief firms begin with a free consultation. Your tax expert wants to find out:
- How much tax debt you owe
- Whether your tax filings are up to date
- If you have any tax liens or levies against your property
In your consultation, your expert might ask questions about your total income and tax filing status, such as whether you are a W-2 employee or a 1099 contractor or if you file as single, married, filing separately, or married, filing jointly.
Once your tax relief firm has determined your situation and you’ve decided to work together, they will contact the IRS on your behalf to halt collections calls.
Then the tax experts will help you explore your options for tax debt relief. Tax debt solutions may involve filing for:
- an offer-in-compromise
- a partial pay installment agreement
- innocent spouse relief
- currently-not-collectible (CNC) status
- penalty relief
- interest abatement
Once your tax professional finds the best solution for your tax debt, they will begin negotiating with the IRS on your behalf.
If you qualify for Currently Not Collectible status, the IRS will stop collection efforts and won’t garnish your wages or put a levy on your bank account. However, the agency may still place a lien on your property, but it will stop collections activities while the agents review your account if you file for an installment agreement or offer-in-compromise.
The IRS may decline your application for tax relief if you fail to fill out the paperwork properly or miss paperwork. However, tax debt relief companies know the exact forms to file and what to say when they negotiate on your behalf.
How Much Does Tax Relief Cost?
The price of tax debt relief varies tremendously among providers. Some request a flat-rate payment upfront. Others charge a portion of the money you are saving by filing for tax debt relief or a percentage of your total tax debt. Others charge an upfront setup fee and then hourly rates, so the more complex your case and the more time it takes, the more you will pay.
Tax debt relief rates typically range from $2,000 to $8,000, with upfront setup fees ranging from $200 to $750.
Does Tax Relief Really Work?
In 2017, the IRS accepted just over 40% of all offers in compromise. But Investopedia estimates that fewer than 10% of consumers who work with tax debt relief firms get full satisfaction. The worse off you are financially, the more likely it is that the IRS will accept your settlement offer or partial pay installment agreement.
However, in many cases, the IRS will accept a payment plan, which can help alleviate some of your financial burdens and help prevent a tax levy or wage garnishment.
As with any type of debt relief or debt settlement, you can negotiate on your own. But dealing with the IRS is scary. It may be worth the money to have tax professionals on your side to handle negotiations.
How Do You Avoid Tax Relief Scams?
As in any industry where customers are desperate for answers and fearful about the future, the tax debt relief industry is filled with scam artists and less-than-reputable firms.
So, it’s important to be skeptical of any company that asks for a large upfront fee or refuses to provide a free consultation. Review the company’s history, too. Does the company show longevity? Is it accredited by the Better Business Bureau?
If the company has changed its name multiple times or has only been around for a short time—or if the company name does not match its domain name—this could be a sign of a scam.
Most importantly, be aware of companies that make big promises. It’s likely the company will not be able to have IRS penalties, fees, and interest charges waived. In fact, the company may not be able to help reduce your tax debt at all.
Keeping in mind that the IRS only accepts 40% of offers-in-compromise, be wary of companies that promise to erase your tax bill or have your tax debt reduced dramatically.
A tax debt relief firm can handle the stressful process of negotiating with the IRS on your behalf. But you should not trust a company that makes promises that seem too good to be true—especially if they have not reviewed your financial records before making those promises.
How We Chose the Best Tax Relief Companies
To compile our list of the best tax relief companies, we reviewed dozens of tax debt relief firms, combing through consumer reviews and company websites, and analyzing credentials, certifications, and Better Business Bureau listings. After reviewing the offerings from several companies, we identified the best ones based on their results, customer service, and variety of services offered to taxpayers.