Dealing with back taxes, IRS tax debt, and unpaid taxes can be incredibly stressful. The letters and calls from the IRS can seem endless, and the penalties and interest can cause balances to snowball out of control. Where can you turn for help?
Tax relief companies promise to negotiate with the IRS on your behalf to settle tax debt for less than you owe. But do these services deliver on their promises? In this article, we’ll examine the pros and cons of Fortress Tax Relief to see if it’s the right tax resolution option for you.
Overview of Fortress Tax Relief
Fortress Tax Relief provides tax debt assistance, IRS audit defense, and tax preparation services to individuals and businesses nationwide.
Founded in 2012 by a team of tax attorneys, Fortress negotiates with the IRS to settle tax debt for a fraction of what is owed through offers in compromise, penalty abatement, and installment agreements.
Their tax professionals create customized action plans aimed at reducing tax bills as much as possible.
Pros of Using Fortress Tax Relief
Experienced Tax Attorneys on Staff
The tax professionals at Fortress include licensed attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents with decades of experience dealing with the IRS. Their attorneys have successfully negotiated over $890 million in tax debt relief for clients. Their expertise can give you an advantage when working out a tax settlement.
Free Initial Consultation
Fortress offers a free first consultation to discuss your tax situation. This gives you the opportunity to ask questions and determine if their services are the right fit before paying anything. Many competitors charge fees just for initial consultations.
Customized Action Plans
Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, Fortress will conduct a full investigation into your specific tax issues and develop a tailored action plan. The customized strategy targets maximum IRS debt forgiveness.
Tax Debt Reduction
For qualified taxpayers, Fortress says they have achieved tax debt reductions of 40% to 75% for their clients through effective negotiating strategies with the IRS. This can equate to thousands to tens of thousands in savings compared to paying the full amount you owe.
Flexible Payment Plans
Once a tax settlement is reached, Fortress sets up manageable payment plans based on your budget and ability to pay. This makes it easier to resolve the remaining reduced tax debt over time.
Quick Resolution Times
Fortress states that most of their clients have their tax problems resolved in 12 to 48 months. Their expertise can help speed up negotiations versus attempting self-negotiation.
Positive Customer Reviews
Analysis of over 300 online customer reviews shows mostly satisfactory feedback on Fortress’ services.
Many praise their tax attorneys and the substantial savings achieved from settled IRS debt.
Cons of Fortress Tax Relief
Expensive Service Fees
The biggest downside is Fortress’ high service fees. Their standard fees range from 15% to 25% of your total enrolled tax debt. For a $20,000 balance, you would pay $3,000 to $5,000 in fees. Competitors may charge less.
Mixed BBB Reviews
While customer reviews on sites like TrustPilot are mostly positive, Fortress has a mixed 1.5-star rating with the Better Business Bureau. Some BBB complaints involve poor customer service and communication issues.
Limitations for Very High Balances
Fortress states they take on tax debts ranging from $5,000 up to $250,000. However, for balances over $100k, services may be limited and more documentation is required. Not ideal for very large IRS debts.
Not Available in All States
While Fortress serves most of the U.S., there are a few states where services are not offered, like Tennessee and Louisiana. Be sure to check availability in your state first.
How Does the Fortress Tax Relief Process Work?
If you enroll with Fortress, here is an overview of what you can expect:
- Initial Consultation: Discuss your tax issues and get expert advice on your options from a Fortress tax professional.
- Case Investigation: Fortress will thoroughly review your tax situation, including any correspondence with the IRS, to identify the best negotiation strategies.
- Action Plan: Based on the audit of your case, Fortress will create a customized plan to reduce your tax debt as much as possible. This is tailored to your specific circumstances.
- Negotiations: Fortress begins negotiating with the IRS on your behalf using proven strategies to settle your debt. The power of attorney allows them to act as your representative.
- Resolution: Ideally, negotiations result in a reasonable debt reduction, flexible repayment plan, and lifting of any IRS enforcement actions like wage garnishment. Your tax problems are resolved.
What Does Fortress Tax Relief Cost?
Fortress has several fee structures based on your unique tax situation:
- For tax debt enrollments under $10,000, fees range from $2,000 to $5,000 total.
- For balances above $10,000, the standard fee is 15% to 25% of your total enrolled tax debt amount.
- “First-work” fees cover the initial consultation, investigation, and action plan creation. Remaining fees are then spread out over the course of services.
- Alternatively, you can opt for a pay-as-you-go model where fees are paid periodically only as work is completed.
During a consultation, Fortress provides a written fee agreement outlining your specific charges. Get an itemized breakdown before signing.
Are you Comparing Fortress to Top Competitors?
Fortress faces stiff competition from companies like Tax Defense Network, Optima Tax Relief, and Community Tax Relief. How do their services and pricing stack up against these top rivals?
- Tax Defense Network advertises set fees as low as $1000 for tax debt under $10k. This is less than Fortress’ starting rates. However, reviews indicate lack of transparency on total costs.
- Optima Tax Relief charges average rates of 15% of enrolled debt. This matches Fortress’ mid-tier pricing, though Optima reviews note communication issues.
- Community Tax Relief promotes debt reductions up to 90% but complains of poor customer service are common. Fortress appears to have higher quality service.
When selecting a tax relief firm, focus less on initial fees and more on actual expertise, reputation, and proven IRS negotiation results.
Is Fortress Tax Relief Right for You?
Tax relief services tend to provide the greatest value to taxpayers in the following situations:
- Owe $10,000 or more in back taxes
- Have tried and failed to negotiate with the IRS yourself
- Have complex tax issues like unfiled returns or business payroll taxes
- Had IRS enforcement like wage garnishment or bank levies
- Want experienced tax pros to handle the IRS for you
However, for smaller tax debts under $5,000, the DIY route may be best to avoid steep service fees. Use the free IRS Fresh Start program for negotiating yourself.
Overall, Fortress Tax Relief earns high marks for housing accredited tax attorneys and enrolled agents with extensive knowledge of IRS rules and regulations. Their expertise can give you leverage when negotiating tax settlements.
Customer reviews indicating thousands in tax savings are common. However, fees are quite high, so ensure projected savings exceed costs. Consider negotiating flat-rate fees upfront to control budget.