I Don't Want an Attorney that ...
I don't want an Attorney that (fill in the blank).
I don’t want an Attorney that is simply a “qui tam” attorney. There are some attorneys who have a legal practice that spein which he specializes in representing whistleblowers in other areas of the law where fraud is committed against the Federal Government (Federal False Claims Act). They pretend that they are the best at extending their practice to tax whistleblowers. But, in fact, tax is a very specialized area of the law. The IRS is unique. You should stay away from a qui tam attorney unless he or she has significant tax experience. There appears so be no such qui tam attorney that has significant tax experience.
I don't want an Attorney that is a salesman first. Attorneys are advocates. They are very persuasive and can talk potential clients into almost anything, including representing them. They will explain to you why they are great and should be your representative. Be cynical. Be careful and look at the attorney’s background (experience, qualifications, and knowledge). I have often heard it said that there are four things you should look for in hiring an attorney:
1. Does the attorney have the “right” experience in the area you need assistance?
2. Is the attorney an educator? (i.e., Does he/she teach others?)
3. Is the attorney a member of the bar association in that area of the law for which you are looking?
4. Is the attorney published? Does he/she have published court opinions; does he/she write articles and books?
Remember: You want an attorney . . . not a salesman.
I don’t want an Attorney that wants to be my friend. Attorneys know how to bond with clients. If it is a local attorney, it is likely that you will eat lunch or play golf together. He/she will want you to like him/her and you will. You will be entertained and flattered that the attorney wants to spend time with you. But remember, it just comes down to dollars. The attorney wants your case. You should want the best attorney in this tax whistleblower matter. You don’t want a friend.
I don’t want an attorney that lacks serious tax experience and tax litigation experience. This is a rare combination. Many attorneys may have worked for tax departments of large firms and were part of a litigation team, but that does not qualify them as an experienced tax whistleblower attorney. You want an attorney to represent you who has significant trial experience trying tax matters. Stay away from those attorneys who may be tax planners for individuals, estates, and businesses. You should look for an attorney who has the experience to litigate your case on behalf of the IRS -- after all, that is what you are trying to sell to the IRS.
I don’t want an Attorney that hides behind others. Make sure the attorney is who they say they are. If the attorney represents to you that he is an “experienced tax attorney” . . . make sure that he or she in fact is. Writing wills and trusts does not make an attorney an experienced tax attorney. Having handled an IRS examination or two does not make an attorney an experienced tax attorney for purposes of being a tax whistleblower’s representative. Giving tax advice (i.e., a tax planner) is not enough. Being a general whistleblower (qui tam) attorney is not enough to be considered to be an experienced tax whistleblower attorney.
You want to find an attorney who lives and breathes tax. The ideal attorney is the one who knows the IRS from the inside and the outside. If you Google “tax whistleblower,” you might notice that all the tax whistleblower sites state that they are experienced tax attorneys. However, look at that attorney’s credentials carefully. Even if an attorney is not an experienced tax attorney, he certainly can market himself by saying he is an experienced tax attorney. If an attorney says it often enough (“I am an experienced tax attorney”), there will be those who will believe it. Be careful.
I don’t want an Attorney that is selling the firm or others. This is simple to spot. If the attorney works with an experienced tax attorney, be careful because that does not qualify the attorney as an experienced tax attorney. An attorney who lacks tax experience, qualifications, and knowledge will hide behind the experience of others. They will tell you they have former IRS Revenue Agents to work the case. However, remember that you are hiring the attorney; you are not hiring some other employees of the attorney, others whom you are unlikely ever to meet, much less have a chance to evaluate. Always look at the experience, qualifications, and knowledge of the attorney with whom you will be working.
I don’t want an Attorney that sells a "title." A quick search of the internet reflects those attorneys who, recognizing perhaps that they have nothing special to offer to a potential tax whistleblower, might refer to themselves as a “whistleblower attorney” or “tax reward attorney.” Their website is likely to have a clever name also. Do not be fooled by the marketing. An attorney should be evaluated on his/her tax experience, qualifications, and knowledge. Remember, there is, at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, at stake. That is the difference between the IRS not taking the case and a 15% reward or the difference between a 15% reward and a 30% reward. Therefore, this decision should not be made without much thought, time, and effort.
 What is an “experienced tax attorney?” An experienced tax attorney is the attorney who should represent you in a whistleblower case. It is up to the experienced tax attorney to put the whistleblower case together in a manner so as to increase the likelihood that the IRS will accept it into the program. It is up to the experienced tax attorney to justify his/her fee by submitting the case to the IRS in a manner in which it could be considered for the maximum 30% reward rather than the minimum 15% reward. The experienced tax attorney should be able to take your case and write an “audit plan” for the IRS and write memoranda of legal tax advice in a form and format with which the IRS is familiar. The experienced tax attorney should be able to take your whistleblower case and make it better than any other attorney could do by having the experience of knowing what the IRS is looking for and by providing more than the IRS is looking for. These cases may be complicated, worth a lot of money, and are worth the time and effort to find an “experienced tax attorney.”