Sometimes we fall behind on our taxes; I’ve been there myself, as an independent business owner.

Lately, there is this commercial that’s been running on late night TV, where this company is talking about helping people to solve their tax problems, either totally eliminating their debt or getting them drastically reduced amounts that they owe. In the commercial, though we know these folks are just actors, they talk about having debts as high as $500,000, and how this company will help you out if you just call “this number”.

Here’s the first problem. There is never a company named in the commercial. At first I thought I was just missing it, but “luckily” the same commercial came on 3 more times during the show I was watching. Nope, never mentioned a company name, just gave a phone number. If that’s not a major red flag, I don’t know what is.

Two, you can bet that if someone fell behind in tax payments to the tune of $500,000 that it might be too late to call some company for help in working it down.

Three, the IRS doesn’t negotiate deals that will drastically reduce your payment load. They don’t have to; they’re the federal government. They will find a way to get their money, all of it, or you may end up spending some time in jail. In this commercial, it had one actor saying they had a tax debt of $30,000 and the IRS settled for $1,700. Nope, that’s just not going to happen.

The best thing to do with the IRS is to call the number on the letter, if you get a letter, and work out a payment plan. The people working there are quite accommodating; they don’t want to hurt you. Sure, you need the ability to pay something, but the alternative is for them to garnishee your wages for around 10%, which, if you’re not working, no problems, and if you are, at least you still can life fairly well off that if you know how to budget.

The main point here is to, well, not be stupid. If you don’t know who you’re dealing with, don’t deal with them. And if you do know who you’re dealing with, make sure you know as much about them as you possibly can. Protect yourself always.