While an accountant is responsible for reviewing your finances and preparing your taxes, a tax attorney provides you with legal advice and representation regarding your taxes and finances. Many people employ tax attorneys when they are being audited or prosecuted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for cheating on their taxes or failing to pay them. If you need the expertise of a tax attorney to assist you, it's important that you choose one that is knowledgeable about tax laws and has the experience required. To ensure you choose one that meets this criteria, there are some questions you should ask a tax attorney before hiring him to represent you.

What is your specialty?

Some tax attorneys focus solely on helping private individuals who are facing legal action from the IRS. Others deal specifically with businesses and companies that need legal representation for their taxes. By determining what a tax attorney specializes in, you can learn whether or not they have the right knowledge and experience to help you based on your specific situation.

What experience do you have?

It's important that you obtain a tax attorney who has experience in resolving cases both in and out of the courtroom. You want an attorney that is skilled at negotiating and resolving cases before they get to trial but also has the skills and experience to represent you in court in the event your case can't be resolved amicably. Ask about their win-lose ratio as well as whether or not they can provide references from former clients who you can speak to individually.

Are you a member of the state bar association?

Tax attorneys are required to have a judicial degree and pass the bar exam like lawyers in other specialty fields. Checking that they are a member of the state bar association allows you to know that they have the credentials to practice law and represent you in court in your state rather than simply provide legal advice and no representation.

What fees do you charge?

Each tax attorney sets their own fees which are generally charged by the hour. Attorneys generally have a retainer fee which must be paid up front before an attorney will take the case. Only in rare instances do tax attorneys engage the policy that clients must pay only if they come out victorious, so it's important that you have the money to pay your tax attorney up front. Knowing how much an individual tax attorney charges allows you to arrange your finances to accommodate the fees or find a cheaper tax attorney that you can afford.

What are your overall thoughts on my case?

Many tax attorneys provide a free consultation that allows you to meet with them and explain your case. This gives you the opportunity to meet the attorney and determine if he is the right one to represent you before you hire him. It's important during this initial consultation to ask the attorney what their opinion is of your case and whether or not they think it can be won.