In a recent interview, leading tax attorney Benjamin Goldburd, partner at Goldburd McCone Attorneys in Manhattan, NY, revealed a number of reasons why you shouldn’t speak to the IRS without legal representation. —
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When asked to comment, Goldburd said, “Many people don’t know what to do when they or someone they know has landed in hot water with the IRS. Anything said during an IRS interview without a lawyer present cannot be undone and can lead to unintended consequences down the line.”
Submitting an IRS interview without legal representation can unintentionally cause self-incrimination, regardless of whether there’s been wrongdoing.
When asked to elaborate, Goldburd commented, “Many people are under the false impression that no harm will come to them if they answer questions posed by tax authorities during an investigation interview.”
“The tax authorities, particularly if they are investigating tax evasion, are trained to point out inconsistencies or contradictions in a story. Wavering while answering a line of questioning can land you in deeper trouble with the IRS. Your answers cannot be taken back, even if you hire a seasoned tax attorney in the later stages of an investigation.”
Goldburd added that if IRS agents come knocking to ask questions as part of a broader investigation, the best thing to do is to politely refuse an interview without an attorney present.
“The same goes if the IRS has contacted you about being a witness to tax evasion. Let’s say that the Criminal Division of the IRS wants to question or interrogate you for something that someone else did. Even though you might think nothing bad will happen by talking to the IRS as a witness without legal representation, this could come back to haunt you later on,” he said.
“Even though you might not be the target of the investigation, the IRS could use what you said during an interview as a witness to build a case against you at a later date.”
Investigations involving tax evasions, Goldburd said, operate similarly to any other criminal investigations, meaning that "even as a witness, the fifth amendment guarantees your right against self-incrimination. This means that it’s within your rights to invoke the fifth to remain silent.”
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