Don’t Take the IRS Risk: Get a Tax Opinion to Protect Your Business and Personal Assets

Don’t Take the IRS Risk: Get a Tax Opinion to Protect Your Business and Personal Assets

What is a Tax Opinion?

A tax opinion is a professional assessment provided by a qualified tax attorney regarding the tax treatment of specific transactions or business strategies. This document outlines how a particular strategy or transaction complies with the tax laws and regulations, offering assurance and guidance on the potential tax implications.

Why Should Small Businesses Obtain a Tax Opinion?

Small business owners face unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to tax planning. With the complex and ever-changing nature of tax laws, obtaining a tax opinion can be crucial for several reasons:
1. Compliance Assurance: A tax opinion provides clarity on how certain tax laws apply to your business strategies, ensuring you remain compliant with IRS regulations.
2. Risk Mitigation: By securing a tax opinion, you can significantly reduce the risk of IRS penalties, interest, and legal disputes.
3. Strategic Planning: A well-informed tax opinion helps in crafting effective tax strategies that maximize savings and enhance financial planning.
4. Peace of Mind: Knowing that your tax strategies are backed by professional advice gives you confidence and peace of mind, allowing you to focus on growing your business.

The Cost of Risk Mitigation vs. Potential Savings

While obtaining a tax opinion entails costs, the investment is often justified by the substantial savings and risk mitigation it offers. Here’s why the cost is worth it:
1.    Avoidance of Penalties and Interest: IRS penalties for non-compliance can be severe. A tax opinion helps ensure that your tax strategies are compliant, thereby avoiding these costly penalties.
2. Optimized Tax Savings: With professional advice, you can implement tax strategies that maximize deductions and credits, leading to significant tax savings.
3. Reduced Audit Risk: A tax opinion can help reduce the likelihood of an IRS audit, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
4. Long-term Financial Benefits: Effective tax planning not only saves money in the short term but also contributes to long-term financial stability and growth.

How a Tax Opinion Can Waive IRS Penalties

A critical aspect of obtaining a tax opinion is its potential to waive IRS penalties. The IRS recognizes tax opinions as a form of reasonable cause that can justify a taxpayer’s position, thereby avoiding penalties. Here’s how it works:
1. Reasonable Cause Defense: If a business relies on a well-reasoned tax opinion, it can claim a reasonable cause defense in case of an IRS dispute. This defense is based on the premise that the taxpayer acted in good faith and with due diligence by seeking professional advice.
2. Substantial Authority: A tax opinion provides substantial authority, which is a key criterion the IRS considers when determining whether to impose penalties. Substantial authority exists if the weight of authorities supporting the treatment of an item is substantial in relation to the weight of authorities supporting contrary treatment.
3. Good Faith Effort: Demonstrating that a business made a good faith effort to comply with tax laws by obtaining a tax opinion can further strengthen the argument against penalties. The IRS acknowledges that taxpayers who seek professional guidance are taking steps to comply with the law.
4. Specific Penalties: Tax opinions are particularly effective in waiving accuracy-related penalties, such as those for substantial understatement of income tax or negligence.

Common Tax Strategies for Which Business Owners Obtain Tax Opinions

Here are some common tax strategies for which small business owners often seek tax opinions:
1. Entity Selection and Structure: Choosing the right business entity (e.g., S-Corp, C-Corp, LLC) can have significant tax implications. A tax opinion can guide you in selecting the most tax-efficient structure.
2. Income Deferral: Strategies to defer income to future tax years can help in managing cash flow and reducing current tax liability.
3. Expense Acceleration: Accelerating expenses into the current tax year to maximize deductions.
4. Retirement Plans: Establishing and funding retirement plans like 401(k)s or SEP IRAs for business owners and employees to take advantage of tax-deferred growth and deductions.
5. Research and Development (R&D) Credits: Utilizing R&D tax credits to offset expenses related to innovation and development.
6. Depreciation Strategies: Maximizing depreciation deductions through cost segregation studies and other methods.
7. State and Local Tax (SALT) Planning: Navigating state and local tax regulations to minimize overall tax burden.
8. Charitable Contributions: Structuring charitable contributions in a tax-efficient manner.
9. Captive Insurance Companies: Forming captive insurance companies to self-insure risks while taking advantage of potential tax benefits. This is a complex strategy that requires careful planning and professional advice.
10. Transactions on the IRS Target List: Certain tax strategies and transactions that are on the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” or “Listed Transactions” list require careful scrutiny. Obtaining a tax opinion can provide essential guidance and documentation to justify these strategies.

Range of Costs for Tax Opinions

The cost of obtaining a tax opinion can vary significantly based on the complexity of the transaction or strategy involved. Here is a general range of costs:
1. Simple Tax Opinions: For straightforward issues such as basic entity selection or common deductions, costs may range from $1,000 to $5,000.
2. Moderately Complex Tax Opinions: For strategies like retirement plan structuring or SALT planning, costs typically range from $5,000 to $10,000.
3. Highly Complex Tax Opinions: For intricate strategies such as captive insurance companies, R&D credits, or transactions on the IRS target list, costs can range from $10,000 to $50,000 or more.
These costs reflect the detailed analysis and thorough documentation required to ensure that the tax opinion provides substantial authority and a robust defense against potential IRS challenges.

Guardian’s Commitment to Quality Tax Opinions

At Guardian, we feel so strongly about the value of a tax opinion that we had a comprehensive tax evaluation and memorandum of our MSO (Management Service Organization) written by a highly reputable firm, Handler Thayer. This firm has written 170 tax opinions, never been sued, or lost on an opinion. Guardian has relationships with top legal firms in the United States, and we can make an introduction to help you secure a tax opinion when needed.

Real-World Examples of Tax Opinions Saving Clients Money

The effectiveness of tax opinions in mitigating IRS penalties and securing favorable outcomes in disputes is well-documented in several notable cases:
1. Case: Black & Decker Corp. v. United States (2004): Black & Decker successfully argued that their tax position, supported by a comprehensive tax opinion, was justified. This helped them save approximately $26 million in potential penalties and taxes.
2. Case: Canal Corporation & Subsidiaries v. Commissioner (2010): The U.S. Tax Court found that the taxpayer was not liable for penalties on a complex transaction because they had obtained a tax opinion from a reputable law firm. This saved the company approximately $200 million.
3. Case: Veritas Software Corp. v. Commissioner (2009): Veritas Software Corp. used a detailed tax opinion to support their transfer pricing strategy, which saved them over $100 million in potential IRS adjustments and penalties.
4. Case: The Coca-Cola Company v. Commissioner (2015): Coca-Cola’s reliance on a well-founded tax opinion allowed them to defend their transfer pricing arrangements, saving the company more than $3 billion in potential adjustments and penalties.
5. Case: Microsoft Corporation v. Commissioner (2006): Microsoft successfully used a tax opinion to justify their tax treatment of software transactions, saving approximately $250 million in potential IRS penalties.
These cases illustrate how tax opinions can provide robust defenses against IRS penalties and facilitate favorable legal outcomes, thereby saving clients significant amounts of money.


For small business owners, obtaining a tax opinion is a strategic investment that ensures compliance, mitigates risk, and optimizes tax savings. The cost of securing a tax opinion is often outweighed by the benefits of avoiding penalties, reducing audit risks, and implementing effective tax strategies. By seeking professional tax advice, business owners can focus on what they do best—growing their business—while enjoying the peace of mind that comes from knowing their tax affairs are in order.
#SmallBusiness #TaxStrategy #TaxOpinion #RiskMitigation #Compliance #IRS #TaxPlanning #FinancialSavings #BusinessGrowth #GuardianTaxAdvice #LegalAdvice


Don’t Take the IRS Risk: Get a Tax Opinion to Protect Your Business and Personal Assets


We are expert tax consultants dedicated to maximizing business wealth and minimizing tax burdens through strategic planning.

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