Enrolled agent is often a better source to help with problems with the IRS.

Q: I gave money to a well known tax advocate advertised on talk radio. They are terrible. I need to get a tax attorney or lawyer to help me out in Atlanta on an issue of back taxes I have. The deadline is approaching and I need help.

A: You might want to get an attorney involved if your issue deals with a significant amount of money. You can generally call the local bar association in the city in which you are located to get a referral.

However, you might be better off talking to an enrolled agent to see if one of them can assist you with your problem. In your case you can seek help with the Georgia Association of Enrolled Agents (www.4gaea.org). They can give you the name of several enrolled agents that can help you in your area.

Enrolled agents are frequently people that used to work for the IRS and have now moved on to private practice. While many of them are not accountants, you have to determine what your issues are and figure out if an enrolled agent is right for you on the issue you face with the IRS.

In some cases, if you know you are facing criminal penalties, you might want to talk to an attorney that specializes in criminal tax cases.

You can go to an accountant for this help as well, but you’d have to weigh the costs of the accountant with the issue you face. As you have found out, you shouldn’t send money out without knowing who you are hiring and what you will get in return. Often, you should avoid those companies that appear to advertise the most on television or radio and find someone who can give you a referral.

If you call the Georgia Association of Enrolled Agents, you should get the name of a couple of agents and talk to each of them. Once you get a sense of what each of them will charge you, the experience they have, the process they use in helping you, then you can hire one of them to assist you.

You might also want to look at the other personal finance advice articles we have on our site on this topic.