Optima Tax Relief is a company that claims they can get you squared up with the IRS, getting rid of your tax debt, often times for less than what is currently owed. Optima Tax Relief says their tax relief experts use proven strategies to deal with the IRS, preventing wage garnishing or bank levies and save you both time and money in the long run.
How does Optima Tax Relief work to get me tax relief?
Optima Tax Relief states their system works in 2 phases: investigation and resolution.
But in order to start Phase One, they state you must first have a consultation with them, which is free. During this consultation, they state they will get all the pertinent information, such as how much you owe the IRS, assets, other debts, etc.
This is when Phase One begins, where they say they establish communication with the IRS on your behalf and review your options. Optima Tax relief says this can take 2-4 weeks.
After that, Phase Two kicks in: resolution of your debts, which they state can take anywhere from 3-9 months.
They tout Optima Tax Relief employs tax professionals with 25 years of experience. They state their founders Henry Langenberg and Jesse Stockwell met more than 12 years ago at Wharton Business School (but Optima Tax Relief has only been in business since 2012).
Optima Tax Relief boasts their Two Phase system is “revolutionary” in the industry and will give you relief from back taxes both state and federal.
How much does Optima Tax Relief cost me to get rid of my tax debt?
They don’t specifically give a dollar amount, as they state every case is different. Based on statements provided by previous customers, these seem to be in the $2,000 - $6,000 range.
Is there any guarantee Optima Tax Relief can help reduce my taxes or monies owed?
No. In the fine print, Optima Tax Relief notes that individual results vary and they “do not guarantee that your tax debts will be lowered by a specific amount or percentage or that your tax debt will be paid off within a specific period of time. We do not assume tax debt, make monthly payments to creditors or provide tax, bankruptcy, accounting or legal advice. We do not provide credit repair services.”
Optima Tax Relief encourages you to make sure to read all program materials before enrolling in their program.
Optima Tax Relief does provide a 15-day money back guarantee for any fees paid for the Investigation Phase, aka Phase One.
How do I know Optima Tax Relief is not a scam?
According to many sources, including the FTC, Fox Business, and USA Today, there are many fraudulent “tax relief” companies out there that advertise on the radio and television, promising to protect you from the greedy IRS. Instead, these companies charge exorbitant fees and leave their clients still in arrears with their debts.
In addition, Optima has extensive bios of both their founders as well as the tax professionals they work with. They also solicit the celebrity endorsement of Darrell Ward (Ice Road Truckers) who said Optima resolved his tax problem like “true pros”. TV personality Alan Thicke is said to endorse Optima Tax Relief (but does not appear to have been a client) in radio and television spots.
They even have an article on their own blog warning consumers about fraudulent tax relief companies. In it, they point the fingers at other companies who have been fined millions of dollars by both the FTC and state attorneys general. They also give advice as to what to look for when it comes to finding a legitimate tax relief company that can really help you, and not rip you off.
Bottom Line: Is working with Optima Tax Relief a good idea if you are in debt to the IRS?
Most likely, no. Why do we say this in spite of the many glowing consumer reviews on their website and others?
Well, first, they seem to be breaking their own rules. In the aforementioned blog, it states: “firms that make you pay upfront for their services should be avoided”. They also say “a reputable firm will be willing to guarantee their performance” and “if they are not able to deliver on their claim [you should be able] to get your money back”.
Optima Tax Relief also states that they don’t take any money upfront, they do take it before Phase 2.
While Optima Tax Relief does have a money back guarantee, it’s only for 15 days after the Investigation Phase (or Phase One) begins and does not include monies paid to the Immediate Action Team or a Resolution Phase Addendum. Since the Investigation Phase is said to take 2-6 weeks, you will be unable to see if they can really help you.
They also encourage you to research them using consumer sites such as the Better Business Bureau. While there is an overwhelming majority of positive reviews (109), it’s the 6 negatives ones that concern us:
“I see some of the reviews good and bad. Most of the bad ones are very similar to my story. I hired them in October of 2013. At first they were great until they got almost $6000 from me. After that the customer service was terrible… I kept having to call them regularly to try to find out what is going on. They kept saying we are waiting on the IRS to get back to us. This went on for a year and a half before the IRS finally seized my bank account… My advice is to get in touch with the IRS as they are helpful and educate yourself or see a CPA,” wrote Glenn T. on 9/14/2015.
If you are in debt to the IRS, don’t try and hide under a rock – talk to them. Visit their Fresh Start Initiative to learn more about the different ways you can pay off or relive your debt to them, including installment plans and an Offer In Compromise, which you don’t need any “expert” to see if you qualify for: simply fill out this pre-qualifier on the IRS’ own website.
You may also be able to get free help from the IRS Taxpayer Advocate.
Let us know your experience with Optima Tax Relief below!