As I indicated previously, the most common client I see has numerous unfiled tax returns. As an example, let’s say that Mr. Jones retains me as his attorney. He has five years of unfiled tax returns and over the past few years has been receiving letters from the IRS advising him that he hasn’t filed his returns and owes thousands of dollars in taxes. Mr. Jones is a self-employed insurance salesman, who hasn’t been paying any estimated taxes. He wants to buy a house since mortgage interest rates are so low. His girlfriend is also pressuring him to get married before she purchases a house with him. However, she doesn’t know about all his unfiled tax returns because he hasn’t disclosed this information to her, and he receives all his mail (which includes those “friendly IRS reminder” letters) at a P.O. Box to which she doesn’t have a key.
How do I help Mr. Jones? First, due to bar rules concerning client confidentiality, I communicate only with Mr. Jones and in ways that he directs to stay out of the potential hornet’s nest between him and his girlfriend. He has carefully kept her in the dark regarding this matter; it isn’t my place to shed light on it. Second, it’s imperative that his tax returns are filed as soon as possible. The rationale is that it will take some time, and by that I mean months for the older returns to be processed through the IRS’ system. Keep in mind that Mr. Jones is getting pressured not only to get married but also to buy a house, so time is of the essence. Also, the longer we wait to file his returns, the greater the possibility that his wages or his bank accounts could be seized by the IRS.