Optima Tax Relief’s website explains that their system works in two phases: investigation and resolution.
But in order to start Phase One, they state you must first have a free consultation with them, during which they will obtain all your pertinent information, including how much you owe the IRS, assets, other debts, etc.
Afterward, they establish communication with the IRS on your behalf and review your options, which can take two to four weeks.
After that, Phase Two kicks in: resolution of your debts, which they state can take anywhere from three to nine months. Here, they’ll help you maintain compliance with the IRS’ requirements and achieve your goal.
From a company perspective, Optima Tax Relief’s founders Henry Langenberg and Jesse Stockwell met more than 12 years ago at Wharton Business School (although the company has only been in business since 2012), and currently employs tax professionals with more than 25 years of combined experience.
But is their two-phase system as revolutionary as their site claims? Let’s dig in by taking a closer look at how the process works.
How much does Optima Tax Relief cost me to get rid of my tax debt?
While Optima’s website doesn’t specify a dollar amount for their fees, they emphasize that what you’ll pay largely depends on the details surrounding your IRS debt, including how much you owe and the complexity of your case.
Based on statements provided by previous customers on third-party sites, as well as our conversations with customer support, fees can fall anywhere between $495 and $23K.
Is there any guarantee Optima Tax Relief can help reduce my taxes or monies owed?
The short answer? No.
In the fine print on their site, Optima 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.”
Furthermore, they emphasize that they "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.”
Before enrolling, the company encourages their clients to read—and fully understand—all materials related to their program.
Optima Tax Relief does provide a 15-day money back guarantee for any fees paid for the Investigation Phase, aka Phase One. In order to request one, or to ask for clarification about program details, a support representative can be reached at 800-536-0734.
How do I know If Optima Tax Relief Works?
According to many sources, including the Federal Trade Commission, 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. But often times, they report that these companies charge exorbitant fees and leave their clients still in arrears with their debts.
But Santa Ana, CA-based Optima Tax Relief has earned many awards and accreditations that indicate a track record of providing legitimate services and positive results for their clients. A big part of this is their Better Business Bureau accreditation, where they held an A+ rating, based on 446 reviews and have “closed complaint” rate of 100%, as of 12/28/17.
Most of these appeared to revolve around less-than-expected results, and a company representative responded in each instance to help resolve the situation.
In fact, the company was awarded the BBB Torch Award on Business Ethics for 2017, as well as OC Register’s Top Workplace and the OC Civic 50 Award, which recognizes the top 50 charitable organizations in Orange County.
Optima Tax Relief is also listed by the IRS as an approved Continuing Education Provider, meaning the company is certified by the IRS to provide education courses to Enrolled Agents and other professionals in the tax preparation field.
In addition, Optima’s website provides extensive bios for both of their founders, as well as for the tax professionals they employ.
They even have a blog post warning consumers about fraudulent tax relief companies, where they point the finger at other companies who have been fined millions of dollars by both the FTC and state attorneys general. They also offer advice regarding what to look for when it comes to finding a legitimate tax relief company.
Bottom Line: Is working with Optima Tax Relief a good idea if you are in debt to the IRS?
In the end, Optima Tax Relief has been in business for years, is open and forthright about the services they can—and can’t—provide, have won several rewards, and come with mostly positive online customer feedback.
They even offer a money back guarantee on the initial $495 investigation fee if they’re unable to help, so you might not have much more to lose than a little of your time if you decide to give them a try.
With this said, keep in mind that this only applies to the Investigation Phase (or Phase One), and does not include monies paid to the Immediate Action Team or a Resolution Phase Addendum. Furthermore, the website reports this phase could take between two and six weeks, while the refund window is only available for 15 days.
As such, it’s important to point out that once you pass the two-week mark, or once you agree to move beyond the investigation phase, you lose the ability to get your money back if you’re dissatisfied with Optima’s performance.
With all of this said, whether you’re considering Optima or another tax relief service, we’d recommend that you start by reaching out to the IRS yourself and seeing what they can do to assist with the repayment of your debt.
Also, be sure to 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!