Welcome to Charles W. Miller, P.C.
What we do
Meet our attorneys and staff
addresses and phone numbers

I DON'T NEED A LAWYER! TV and the Internet Provide All the Information I need

Article 1: I Don't Need a Lawyer: TV and the Internet Provide All the Information I Need

Article 2:If I Ignore Those IRS notices, Maybe They Won't Bother Me

If I Ignore Those IRS Notices, Maybe They Won't Bother Me

Charles W. Miller, P.C.
A Columbus, Georgia Law Firm
5734 Windsor Drive
Building 6
Columbus, Georgia
(706) 565-7795
Copyright 2008-2017 Charles W. Miller, P.C. All rights reserved.

NOTICE: Use of this website or communication with an attorney or staff member of Charles W. Miller, P.C. does not by itself create an attorney-client relationship or constitute the provision or receipt of legal advice. Any use of this website or communication from an attorney or staff member of Charles W. Miller, P.C. should be for informational purposes only and should not be relied or acted upon until a formal attorney-client relationship is established via a written agreement with Charles W. Miller, P.C.

By Charles W. Miller
Copyright 2011 ©

There is an old adage that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. What then are we to make of a non-lawyer who represents himself? Is he also a fool? No, but he is almost certainly making a serious (and potentially quite costly) mistake. A lawyer representing himself does so with full knowledge of why that is dangerous; a non-lawyer does so innocently, often believing that if he's done nothing wrong, he can navigate the legal system alone and with only the information he gathers from the internet, friends, relatives, and the countless TV legal dramas he's seen over the years. Unfortunately, whether done knowingly or innocently, representing oneself in court can have ruinous consequences. Take for example the following real life situation.

A gentleman came to see me one day in a state of panic. He had experienced a several-hour long hearing in a probate court in which he represented himself. He explained to me how unfairly he was treated by the lawyer representing the other side and how the judge had even threatened to jail him on two separate occasions. He left the hearing with more problems than he had when it started and faced the very real prospect of being forced to give up property that was rightfully his.

Once he calmed down and answered my questions about that hearing and the circumstances leading up to it, it became clear that the situation could be salvaged through a straightforward and effective legal strategy. What also became clear, though, was that he likely could have avoided the entire ordeal through an even simpler legal strategy if he had consulted a knowledgeable probate lawyer before that hearing. Instead of solving one problem, he created a second. I agreed to represent him but his earlier mistakes made extra work necessary in order to "rehabilitate" him with the judge and to undo the other side's advantage.

That same case provided an example of how having a lawyer at the beginning can make short work of some potentially serious problems. When the opposing party lost her advantage in the probate court, she went to the Superior Court and had my client removed from the family house by abusing a process available for protection of spouses and children (she was neither). I represented him in the subsequent Superior Court hearing. We not only quashed the petition quickly but the Court awarded attorney's fees to my client. My client did not even have to testify.

The interesting thing about this whole saga is the client told me the first time we spoke that he considered himself an intelligent man and assumed that he could handle the hearing. He was sure that opposing counsel and the judge would see how "right" he was and that the case would be decided quickly in his favor. He was stunned when this was not the result.

That fact that it wasn't the result didn't mean he was less intelligent than he thought or that the opposing counsel and judge were corrupt or evil. While he had obviously been "played" by the other side's attorney who understood the process and the law and how to use both to get favorable rulings from the judge, this man's enemy was not the other attorney or the judge - it was not knowing that there was more to know about the process and the law than what can be learned from common sources.

I can tell many similar tales from over the years and
the lessons are always the same.
1. More is generally involved in a legal matter than it will appear to a non-lawyer.
2. No two cases are exactly alike no matter how similar they appear.
3. Opposing counsel is there for one purpose - to protect his or her client, not you.
4. The judge is there to protect the process, not a particular party.
5. No matter how easy it looks on television, it really is not that way.
6. Don't assume that because you know you are right that you will prevail.
7. If you attend a hearing without competent counsel you are likely going to lose, and lose big.
8. Lawyers aren't cheap, but it will cost less to hire one to solve the initial problem than it will to hire one to fix the problems that arise after you've represented yourself.

For any legal matter, you should at least have an initial consultation with an attorney if for no other reason than to verify what you know and, more importantly, to discover what it is you might not know. Most state and local bars have some type of referral process to assist you in securing a lawyer. If not then there are any number of on-line referral services available. Finally, if these fail you remember there is a low-tech solution. Look in the telephone directory!

The foregoing article is for general education only and does not constitute the rendering of legal advice. Always consult a competent attorney on any matter which may affect your legal rights.

By Charles W. Miller
Copyright 2011 ©

You've had a great day at work. All of your projects went well and that co-worker you can't stand got chewed out by the boss. You're in a great mood and nothing can spoil it.

On the way into your house, you pick up your mail as usual. An official-looking envelope catches your eye. "IRS, Department of the Treasury." Your heart sinks into your stomach. So much for your good day.

You take the envelope inside and stare at it for a few moments, scared to open it and unleash the horrors that surely reside within. After spending most of the evening looking at it, you toss it into the drawer with the numerous other unopened letters you have received from the IRS. "Maybe if I ignore it they will leave me alone" you think hopefully.

They won't.

The very first thing you should do with a letter like this is to open it. It may be something as simple as a general notice from the IRS that all taxpayers receive. You've worried for nothing.

It may be a notice that you are entitled to funds from the IRS. While this doesn't happen often, it does happen.

If it is a notice that you owe the IRS money then you should consult with a competent tax professional as soon as possible. Many CPAs and lawyers are qualified to assist you with your problem. The key is to seek the help of an expert immediately as such a person can help you determine if you truly owe what the IRS suggests you do.

Often the IRS letter has been generated by a computer and no human has even been involved with its transmission. If the IRS receives information (often electronically) that you appear to have income that was not reported then a letter like this goes out to you. It is at this point that you have the greatest chance of resolving this matter in a quick and relatively inexpensive manner.

If the letter is more ominous then you absolutely must act with all due speed. Watch for words like "Levy" and "Seizure" as these are words that indicate harm to your assets is imminent.

The IRS is usually willing to work with taxpayers who are making a sincere effort to resolve the tax matter. There are a number of options available to resolve a tax dispute.

You may qualify for an "Installment Agreement" whereby the IRS agrees to accept payments from you over time. There is, of course, paperwork that you must complete in order to qualify for this, but if you do, it can be a good way to resolve smaller tax controversies.

Installment agreements can sometimes be impractical due to the amount you owe or your inability to pay in such an arrangement. A better alternative in that case would be an "Offer in Compromise" or "OIC." The IRS actually prefers these agreements to installment agreements.

An OIC is a scientific process whereby you offer to settle your tax liability for a lump sum amount, which is usually much less than you owe. The paperwork required to file an OIC is deceptively simple. Getting the IRS to accept your offer is a different matter altogether. In fact it is advisable to have a tax professional handle this for you because the actual IRS rules that apply to determining acceptance of OICs are quite tricky.

An OIC can be paid under the "short-term" method whereby you may break the offer into five or fewer (usually monthly) payments or under the "long-term" method whereby you may break the offer into twenty four or fewer (usually monthly) payments. You typically will have to pay at least 20% down with a short-term OIC or the first monthly payment with a long-term OIC.

Further, a qualified tax professional can negotiate with the IRS to obtain additional reductions in the OIC amount that can be significant.

There is much more to how this all works but the message is that a tax problem does not have to be hopeless.

Finally, there are a number of companies that advertise on national television about their ability to settle IRS debts for pennies on the dollar. Be very careful before hiring such a company. Many of these companies take large fees from taxpayers, file one OIC which is often rejected, and then either abandon the taxpayer or require more money to continue. You may well be much better off using a local expert who will be there to guide you through this process in person.

The foregoing article is for general education only and does not constitute the rendering of legal advice. Always consult a competent attorney on any matter which may affect your legal rights.