Optima Tax Relief Review 2022: A Tax Attorney’s Honest TakeTax Relief
- Optima Tax Relief
- Basics: Founded in 2011, Optima Tax Relief helps you resolve your tax debts with the IRS and/or state tax agency.
- Pros: The company appears to have qualified tax professionals on staff and has some good reviews on legitimate websites such as the Better Business Bureau.
- Cons: Many client reviews claim there is a lack of communication after the company receives the fee. Also, the minimum required debt for Optima to work with you is $10,000, which is high compared to other tax relief providers. Additionally, Optima's pricing structure isn't transparently stated on its website.
- MINIMUM DEBT:
- LOCATION AVAILABILITY:
All 50 U.S. States
- INITIAL FEE:
- YEAR FOUNDED:
Tax relief companies claim to help distressed Americans minimize or eliminate their tax debts.
The industry, however, is rife with controversy due to overpromises to clients on tax settlements with the IRS, opaque pricing, and poor client service.
Against this backdrop, Optima Tax Relief, which was founded in 2011 by two Wharton Business School grads, boasts of having resolved more than $1 billion of tax debts for its clients.
As a tax attorney who has helped clients settle tax debts, I know how messy the process can be and how vulnerable individuals in this situation are to scams.
With this in mind, I decided to check out Optima Tax Relief and its services. Here is what I found.
WATCH the video below to learn how to qualify for an offer in compromise to settle your IRS tax debt!
Optima Tax Relief At a Glance
|Services||Tax resolution, tax preparation|
|Fees||$495 investigation fee, $1,200-$7,000 resolution fee|
|Minimum Debt Required||$10,000|
|Turnaround Time||2-6 months|
|Refund Policy||15-day money-back guarantee|
|Dedicated Case Manager||Yes|
|Speed of Service||2-6 months|
|Location Availability||All 50 US states|
|Optima Tax Relief Phone Number||(800) 536-0734|
Generally, Optima specializes in tax resolution services, which include the following:
- Installment Agreements
- Offer in Compromise
- Penalty Abatement
- Wage Garnishments
- Audit Representation
- State Tax Debts
- IRS Tax Liens
The company also helps clients with filing their delinquent and current-year returns.
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How Does Optima Tax Relief Work?
On its website, Optima advertises a four-step process for resolving your tax debts.
Well, it’s really three steps — the final step being “freedom,” presumably from tax debt.
To sign up for Optima, you must first request a free tax consultation through its website.
Although the company claims that a “senior tax associate” will reach out to review your tax situation, a number of client reviews suggest that a non-credentialed salesperson will be your first contact with the company.
I understand that Optima needs to make money through selling its services, but the company’s description of the initial consultation makes it seem like a credentialed tax expert will actually be reviewing your case during this phase.
If that is the case, Optima should be upfront that the initial consultation is an opportunity to gather preliminary information and lay out Optima’s service offerings.
If you do decide to move forward with Optima, you will proceed to the investigation phase.
My research indicated that you will be required to pay a $495 fee during this phase, which will last up to 30 days.
During this stage, Optima claims it will contact the IRS (and/or state tax agency), address any urgent collection efforts, and gather the required information to build a case.
But many reviews claim that once Optima collects its fee, the company becomes noncommunicative. In some cases, reviewers claimed that Optima provided inaccurate information upon completing the investigation.
For example, in one review, a former client claimed that during the investigatory phase, “[Optima] called me and told me I owe back taxes…I called and spoke to the IRS I owe no back taxes and all years were filed.”
If this claim is true, I find it troubling because determining whether someone owes back taxes should be easy to uncover during a 30-day review period.
In the resolution phase, Optima advertises that it will work to achieve the most optimal outcome based on the findings of the investigation.
Although some reviews show that Optima significantly reduced their clients’ tax debt, many reviews claimed that all the company did was set up an installment plan on their behalf with the IRS.
Sometimes an installment plan is the best option, but the reviews suggest that clients were surprised by this outcome. If these client reviews are true, Optima should be upfront that an installment plan may be the best and only option.
Unfortunately, I suspect that what may have happened in these cases is the Optima “senior tax associate” – their fancy term for salesperson – did not adequately clarify that Optima may not actually be able to settle clients’ tax debt with the IRS for less than they owe.
Obviously, the notion of settling one’s tax debt for less than one owes – that is, obtaining an offer in compromise with the IRS – is an appealing one. I imagine that many individuals who reach out to Optima do so with such a settlement in mind.
Optima likely knows this – their marketing highlights the stories of clients who owed the IRS a substantial amount of money and now owe nothing – and I imagine that their sales scripts take this into account.
Of course, I have never been on a sales call with Optima tax relief salespeople, so this is simply my speculation based on what I’ve seen in third-party reviews of Optima Tax Relief’s services – reviews that may or may not be telling the whole story.
Optima Tax Relief Client Bill of Rights
Optima lays out a “client bill of rights” on its website:
The bill of rights hits all the right notes, but it is unclear what recourse a client has if Optima fails to make good on their promises.
In fact, a number of client reviews highlighted the lack of transparency in pricing and poor communication on the status of cases, which contradict Optima’s commitment to client service in the bill of rights.
How to Qualify for Optima Tax Relief
If you are interested in retaining Optima, you can request a free consultation through the company’s website by filling in the following information:
- Amount of tax debt
- State of residence
- Contact information
The minimum tax debt for Optima to work with you is $10,000, which is high compared to other tax relief firms.
As mentioned before, the initial phone call will be with an Optima salesperson, not a credentialed tax expert. The salesperson will evaluate your case to determine whether tax relief is a suitable option for you.
This leads me to believe that this consultation phase is more of a way for getting people to sign up for Optima’s services rather than determining whether potential clients actually qualify for tax relief.
Related: How Far Back Can the IRS Go?
Optima Tax Relief Cost
Optima does not disclose its fees (at least not in any apparent place on the website), but my research showed the following:
As mentioned above, you pay an upfront fee of $495 to have Optima review your case and determine the best tax relief option.
The company advertises this as the Investigation Phase.
Based on information I found, the resolution fee can vary.
This is not different from any other tax relief firm; complex cases involving an offer in compromise will typically be more expensive while simpler cases such as the removal of a tax lien will be cheaper.
That said, a lot of client reviews complained about Optima’s lack of pricing transparency — a common complaint lodged against the tax relief industry.
For example, a former client claimed, “We were first told the fee would be up to $4,000, but it ended up being $7,000,” with the end result being “a payment plan, something I could have done on my own a year ago and saved time.”
Fees can change if a case turns out to be more complicated, but the review, if true, suggests that Optima not only failed to communicate the reason for the fee increase, but also overcharged the client for an outcome that is not difficult to obtain from the IRS.
How Much Could You Save with Optima Tax Relief?
The amount of money you can save depends on your specific tax situation.
On its website, Optima has highlighted some cases where it was able to substantially reduce their clients’ tax debts with the IRS and/or state tax agency.
Nevertheless, in some cases, Optima is only able to negotiate a payment plan for you with the IRS (and/or state tax agency).
In fact, one disturbing theme among the negative reviews is that Optima was only able to secure an installment plan even after, according to the client, appearing to promise tax reduction or elimination.
At the very least, this shows that the company is not very upfront that a payment plan may be the best (and only) option.
In the worst-case scenario, the lack of communication cited by client reviews after the company receives the fee shows that the company promised tax reduction without actually performing the necessary due diligence to determine whether the client qualified for such relief.
Related: Ultimate Guide to Filing Back Taxes
Optima Tax Relief Pros and Cons
- Disclosure of Qualified Tax Professionals: On the company’s website, Optima discloses the qualified tax professionals it has on staff. This is something that other tax relief companies do not do. The professionals include tax attorneys, CPAs, and EAs.
- Some Favorable Reviews: Optima has a good BBB rating and some good reviews.
- Poor Client Service: Many client reviews complained about the lack of communication once Optima received their fee, including difficulty in getting a hold of case managers and not having calls returned.
- Opaque Pricing: A good number of reviewers claimed that Optima’s actual fee ended up significantly more than estimated without an explanation as to why.
- High Minimum Tax Debt Threshold: There is a $10,000 minimum tax debt threshold for Optima to work with you.
Is Optima Tax Relief Legit?
Optima does have a BBB rating of 4.56/5.00 and some favorable client reviews.
That said, a lot of the good reviews were short and vague and did not provide much detail into the positive aspects of Optima. Below are some examples of the typical favorable review:
There were also a number of negative reviews, which tended to provide much more detail on the reviewers’ experience with Optima.
Specifically, clients in these reviews consistently pointed out Optima’s lack of transparency on pricing and its poor client service.
The following table lists some representative examples of the negative comments on the BBB website:
|Reviewer||Issue||My Take (Assuming Reviewer’s Claims Are True)|
|Quentin M. 12/08/2021||Quentin claimed that Optima told him that it could reduce his taxes within a year, but the process ultimately took about 6 years. Quentin also claimed that once he paid the $4,700 fee, he failed to get call backs, was instructed repeatedly to provide documents he had already previously provided, and was frequently routed to representatives that had no knowledge of his case. Quentin claimed that when he did finally reach his case manager, she told him that she had over 500 clients and did not call the customers about the status of their cases.||Assuming Quentin’s claims are true, the difference between the timeline he was promised and how long the case resolution actually took is troubling. As someone who has dealt with the IRS, I understand how drawn out the process can be, especially in light of the staff shortages and budget cuts the IRS has faced in recent years. Still, Optima should be aware of this and be realistic with the client. What I suspect is happening here is that the representative conveyed a shorter timeline as a way for Quentin to pay the resolution fee. Optima’s lack of communication after receiving the fee is also concerning. The company has advertised that a case manager will be assigned to your case and be with you every step of the way. However, based on Quentin’s review, he could never get a hold of anyone with knowledge of his case. His exchange with his case manager is particularly troubling, since it shows that she was overwhelmed and that no one was moving his case towards resolution. Given these circumstances, it is not difficult to imagine how Quentin’s case has dragged on for nearly six years.|
|Cara H. 11/30/2021||Cara claimed that Optima told her the fee for her case would be $4,000, but it has ended up costing her around $7,000. She also claimed that, despite all the money she paid, Optima ultimately negotiated only a payment plan with the IRS, something she could have done herself a year ago. Perhaps more concerning is that the payment plan failed to cover all the tax years in question, putting her at risk of a levy for these years. Cara has also claimed that she received no call backs when she checked in on her case for two months, a common theme throughout other negative reviews.||If Cara's claims are true, the increased fees are concerning. It is not unreasonable for fees to increase if a case turns out to be more complicated, but it looks like Cara was blindsided by the jump in fees. At the very least, Optima needs to provide a rationale for why the fees increased by $3,000. Perhaps more importantly, assuming Cara’s claims are true, the company needs to explain why it charged $7,000 for negotiating a payment plan with the IRS, something Cara could have done herself.|
|Barnett M. 11/03/2021||Barnett claimed that she paid Optima $6,000 and the company incorrectly told her that her tax debt was 3 times the amount she actually owed. She laments that the “[h]igh pressure sales pitch and extreme urgency convinced me to pay for the services.”||Barnett’s experience, if true, is typical among clients that retain tax relief companies. Salespeople without the necessary credentials are under high pressure to sign up new clients and often exploit their clients’ fears of the IRS and anxiety surrounding their situation. As with other tax relief companies, it looks like Optima failed to actually deliver on the sales pitches after the company received the fee.|
|Robert T. 09/21/2021||Robert claimed that he paid $10,000 to Optima, which he had to finance with the company over 14 months. Robert also claimed that Optima failed to work on his case until the $10,000 was fully paid, which resulted in a lien being placed on his house in the amount of the tax debt during that period of time. After the 14-month period, Robert claimed that the company only negotiated a payment plan with the IRS. When Robert tried to call Optima to ask why the company could not help him reduce his tax debt, he could not get ahold of anyone and his calls were never returned.||Assuming Robert’s claims are true, there are a few concerning aspects in his review. First, even though Robert was financing his fee, he was still paying every month, which meant he should have been entitled to some level of service from Optima. Having a lien placed on your house is a terrifying ordeal and something that the company should have addressed immediately after taking the case. Robert also mentions that all the company did was set up a payment plan with the IRS on his behalf. Sometimes an installment plan is the best (and only) option. However, Optima should have disclosed this as a possibility upfront instead of waiting 14 months to tell him (conveniently after receiving the fee in full). This suggests that Optima failed to make a genuine effort at investigating and reviewing different options for resolving the debt with the IRS.|
Guarantees and Disclaimers
Optima provides a 15-day money back guarantee. In evaluating the client reviews, I saw that clients generally had a difficult time receiving refunds when they requested their money back.
It is unclear, however, whether these clients had requested refunds within the allowable 15-day window, or asked for their money back after the 15-day period.
Practically speaking, since you are required to pay the investigation fee upfront and the company has 30 days to review your case, it is likely that you will only be able to receive the $495 investigation fee if you decide to get your money back within the 15-day period.
Alternatives to Optima Tax Relief
Below is a comparison of Optima’s services with other prominent tax relief companies:
|Optima Tax Relief||Community Tax||Jackson Hewitt Tax Debt Resolution Service||Anthem Tax Services|
|Minimum Debt Required|
|Turn Around Time|
|Dedicated Case Manager|
|Speed of Service|
|Optima Tax Relief Phone Number|
Is Optima Tax Relief Worth It?
In my opinion, Optima Tax Relief is not worth the time and money.
Although the company has some good reviews, a substantial number of reviews focused on the lack of communication and pricing transparency during the process.
Who Optima Tax Relief Is Best For
Optima’s services are best for clients with relatively simple tax debt situations who do not require much hand-holding with respect to their tax issues.
Who Optima Tax Relief Is Not For
Optima’s services are not for clients with complex and large tax debts who value frequent communication, transparency, and updates on the status of their case.
Ultimately, a lot of client reviews showed that Optima failed to communicate in a timely fashion — or even respond to client inquiries at all.
Additionally, many former clients mentioned that prices were not transparent and indicated they were in a worse position after working with Optima.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How much does it cost to use Optima Tax Relief?
Optima does not disclose its fees, but my research indicated an initial investigation fee of $495.
Based on the BBB client reviews, the typical resolution fee ranged from $1,200 to $7,000. Some clients cited higher fees, including an $18,000 fee in one review.
- How long does it take Optima Tax Relief to work?
Optima’s estimated turnaround time is 2-6 months.
- Who owns Optima Tax Relief?
Optima Tax Relief was founded by Harry Langenberg and Jesse Stockwell, who were students at the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania.
- Does Optima Tax Relief help with state taxes?
Yes, Optima helps with state taxes, but it is unclear whether this service is available in all 50 states.
- Does Optima Tax Relief file taxes?
Yes, Optima helps prepare delinquent and current-year returns.
- Does Optima Tax Relief hurt your credit score?
No, it does not appear that retaining Optima Tax Relief will affect your credit score.
- How does Optima Tax Relief make money?
Optima makes money primarily by working with clients to resolve their tax debts with the IRS and/or state tax agency.
Optima receives an initial investigation fee to review your file, and a resolution fee ranging from $1,200 to $7,000 (although reviews show the fees can sometimes be higher).
Steve Ching, J.D., covers tax topics for Money Done Right. He is a practicing tax attorney and also has several years of experience at national accounting firms. Steve is passionate about writing and helping people understand and resolve their tax issues.
Logan is a practicing CPA and founder of Choice Tax Relief and Money Done Right. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.