FAQ's - Tax Whistleblower

Will your attorney consult with you without any charge but nevertheless guarantee confidentiality?

When you first contact an attorney and provide information concerning a fraud scheme is that information confidential and privileged? Yes. And you can demand that the attorney assure you that your information remain confidential, even though the prospective attorney does not represent you. You want to make sure you maintain confidentiality so that you may interview more than one law firm about your prospective claims, without the risk that the information will somehow be disseminated. Keep in mind that information shared via email may be viewed by someone other than the addressee. Also, you cannot form an attorney client relationship simply by sending information to an attorney; there needs to be an agreement that outlines the scope of the representation.

Has your prospective counsel filed tax whistleblower claims? It goes without saying that experience helps.

Is the attorney admitted to practice in the United States Tax Court? Since a tax whistleblower claim is not a "case" that may go into litigation, as a False Claims Act case is, you may wonder why this matters. One answer is that you may be able to appeal an IRS whistleblower award, but you will not have much time. Although appeals are in most cases not viable, if the IRS actually makes a recovery as a result of your information and makes a determination concerning a monetary award to you, you have the right to appeal the amount of the IRS award within thirty days of the decision by the IRS. (This is an oversimplification, since the rules are not as clear as they could be in defining the time necessary for appeal, and there may not be appealable issues, but the amount of an award (between 15% and 30%) is always subject to potential appeal, and the window is a very narrow one).

Is your prospective counsel willing and able to retain appropriate expert assistance with your claim? You should ask about this, and make sure there is an agreement concerning the cost of expert assistance.

Is a contingent fee available and, if so, is it commensurate with the work to be performed by your counsel? Most, if not all, attorneys handling this sort of claim will represent you on a contingent fee basis. You have the right to negotiate the amount of that fee. The filing of a Form 211 should be accompanied by a detailed explanation of the tax fraud, as well as supporting documents. This process can require time and effort by your legal counsel. If your claim proceeds, your counsel should be there to help prepare you for interview by the I.R.S., and there may be more than one interview. However, as stated above, these cases are not "litigated" in the sense that an FCA case may be litigated in court, and the I.R.S. has thus far limited the communications that take place with whistleblower's counsel, as well as continued assistance by the whistleblower's counsel. There are, however, other factors that enter into a decision on percentage of an award that will go to your attorney, and they should be discussed. Your attorney should be willing to negotiate a reasonable fee and you should request an estimate of out-of-pocket expense, including an estimate of expert fees if an expert is needed to assist in the claim.