State Attorney General Jerry Brown on Tuesday warned Californians to avoid tax-relief firms that ask for up-front fees to wipe out back taxes owed to the IRS. He said many of the outfits — which charge up to $3,000 for their services — are “phony” and “provide no actual relief.”

“Every tax season, phony tax-relief companies emerge to exploit cash-strapped Californians who owe back taxes to the IRS,” Brown said. “Taxpayers should be on high alert, avoid paying up-front fees to these companies and never ignore notices from the IRS.”

Brown said the companies, which advertise on TV, radio and online, promise to trim or eliminate altogether outstanding taxes owed to Uncle Sam. They often charge between two and three grand upfront but rarely if ever come through with results.

In fact, Brown said, after getting the cash, they often inform suckers that they're not qualified for tax relief or that the IRS turned them down when the service was asked for tax relief on behalf of the victim. Brown urged Californians to avoid any tax-relief company that asks for fees upfront.

The IRS' own Taxpayer Advocate Service (1-877-777-4778) can help Californians in need of tax help for free. The Los Angeles office can be reached at 213-576-3140.

LA Weekly