An IRS attorney, or tax attorney, either works for the Internal Revenue Service or works for an individual who is being sued by the Internal Revenue Service. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the government agency within the United States that has been given the responsibility of assessing and collecting income tax from all individuals who earn income within the United States. IRS attorneys are a part of that system, and they work within federal tax courts that have the exclusive right to hear cases relating to federal tax law.
In the United States, failure to pay taxes owed constitutes a crime. Tax fraud or tax evasion can result in monetary penalties and a legal obligation to pay both all taxes owed — called back taxes — as well as interest and other fees. In some cases, tax evasion can result in a prison sentence. In fact, famed gangster Al Capone was ultimately imprisoned in 1931 not for his mob-related activities, but for tax evasion.
When a person engages in tax fraud or a tax-related crime, the IRS will use an attorney to prosecute the individual or bring him to court. In this case, the IRS attorney's obligation is to represent the IRS, to prove tax fraud, and to prove the other elements of willful tax evasion, such as intent to hide income. The IRS may hire outside counsel to prosecute those who are guilty of tax fraud or may use an in-house attorney who works full time for the IRS.
IRS attorneys can also represent people who are accused of tax fraud or tax crimes. Due to the serious nature of tax evasion and tax crimes, it is essential for someone who has been accused of tax fraud to contact a lawyer. An IRS attorney in such cases will represent the defendant in a variety of ways, depending on what is involved in the given case.
The IRS attorney may simply help the defendant negotiate a repayment plan with the IRS in which the defendant pays his back taxes over a period of time and/or has some of his fees and penalties waived. IRS tax debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy under normal circumstances, so many defendants may find themselves faced with large debts they cannot get rid of. An IRS attorney may be the only source of help for a person unable to pay, by facilitating communication and agreement between the defendant and the IRS. The IRS attorney may also help the defendant argue that no criminal culpability was involved in the tax evasion and that any mistakes were honest and not fraudulent.