Yael Lazar wears the same piece of statement jewelry every day— a necklace with an angel charm. And what a statement it makes.
Yael is an attorney who specializes in tax resolution, tax preparation and audit representation. The necklace was a thank you present given to her by one of her very elated clients. In fact, it was her clients who helped her come up with the name IRSAngel for her law firm. After a few of them dubbed her their IRSAngel, it stuck. Yael says, “That is who I am, that’s what I’m about. I’m here to save you, protect you and resolve your IRS issues in a positive way.”
Many television commercials for large, national firms describe how they will fight for their clients and take the IRS down. Yael cautions that may not be the best approach, as the IRS doesn’t take too kindly to being threatened. Not to mention that a lot of the national tax services don’t have attorneys on staff and may not be qualified to give legal advice. To a lot of these places, clients may end up being just a number. Not at IRSAngel.
Yael prides herself on being available to her clients. When a call is placed to the IRSAngel offices, Yael herself often answers the phone. Her warm nature and infectious laugh immediately puts one at ease— something that’s very important for someone facing troubles with the IRS. By the time they call, prospective clients are facing a lot of stress and feel a heavy burden. According to Yael, “My clients are great people who have gotten themselves into an unfortunate situation, but there’s always a solution. They may not know how to find it, which is where I come in.”
A typical IRSAngel client is someone who prepares a tax return, realizes they’re going to owe money and delays filing because they simply don’t have the money at the time. Many of them say that they won’t file now because they’re going to save up the money to pay. More often than not, life gets in the way. With mortgage payments, credit card bills and everyday expenses, it becomes difficult to save the money and the situation snowballs.
While it seems easy to understand how someone could find themselves in this predicament, the IRS is not known for being understanding. Regardless of the circumstances, not filing your taxes can result in the ultimate cost— your freedom. It is a federal offense that is punishable by up to one year in prison for each year not filed. Many people don’t realize that there are payment options. In many cases, a monthly payment to the IRS may be less expensive than a client’s credit card bill.
Being a local firm is a great benefit to IRSAngel clients. With identity theft still a big concern for most people, it’s understandable that people would be uneasy about sending sensitive financial information through the mail. With the large, national firms this is a necessity as many times there’s not a local office. Yael has clients that stop in to hand deliver their paperwork. Not only do they feel more at ease, but it also allows them to have a more personal relationship with her. Having a personal relationship with clients is such a big priority of Yael’s that she’s chosen to limit how many clients she takes on. At any given time, she’s working on about 20-30 open cases that require immediate attention and 80-100 others that are at different stages. As she puts it, “It would be great to have 300+ open files, there certainly is no shortage of clients with tax liens filed against them, but I don’t want anything slipping through the cracks and I don’t want to lose that personal touch.”
Another way that IRSAngel provides personalized service? Yael can look out her office window and see the IRS building. She describes her relationship with revenue officers as “wonderful working” relationships. Knowing many of them personally, she’s able to pick up the phone or meet with them to come up with a solution that works for her clients as well as for the IRS.
Her clients tell her that she has a natural ability to put them at ease, a sincere nature and a calming effect. One can feel this come across when she talks about how much she loves her clients and loves helping them. Because she genuinely cares, Yael doesn’t just solve the immediate tax issue at hand. She finds out about her clients’ long-term goals and counsels them on sound financial practices. When they leave her office, they’ll have a financial plan to move forward so as not to find themselves in trouble with the IRS again.
These days, it seems nothing is immune from scams that are designed to steal your identity. The IRS is no exception to this, with a rash of tax scams occurring in the past few years. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Yael says with a laugh. Flyers and advertisements for free money from the IRS, suggesting that the taxpayer can file with little or no documentation, have been appearing in community churches around the country. Promoters are targeting church congregations, exploiting their good intentions and credibility. These schemes also often spread by word of mouth among unsuspecting and well-intentioned people telling their friends and relatives. Promoters of these scams often prey upon low income individuals and the elderly. An elderly client once contacted her because she had been the victim of such a scam. The promoter of this scam was able to help her obtain a $234,000 refund, even though her annual income was only $48,000. According to Yael, “Like anything else, you can’t get out more than you put in. It’s important to keep in mind that the IRS will never email you and they won’t ask for your Social Security number in such an email.” When in doubt, always talk to a tax attorney before acting.
A New York native, Yael grew up in Queens. It’s there that she learned the importance of helping others, one of the core values that her parents instilled. She also credits her strong work ethic and great attention to detail to her upbringing. It’s this need to help others that’s inspired Yael in her latest undertaking, a charitable foundation called Angels for Austin. Austin is an eleven year old boy that she knows personally who is suffering from a rare medical condition called Landau-Kleffner syndrome (LKS). After seeing the child mistreated by the legal and medical communities, Yael decided to step in. She feels that her voice is for those who can’t speak for themselves. In this case, it’s quite literal as Austin lost his ability to speak around age six. As founder and Board Chair, Yael leads the way in the Angels for Austin mission to provide children suffering from LKS with whatever they may need, whether it be an attorney, advocate or financial assistance. All support given to families is needs-based. It’s Yael’s hope that Angels for Austin will bring awareness to LKS and be a resource for families afflicted with this rare disorder.
With so much time devoted to helping others in her professional life, it’s no different at home, not that Yael would have it any other way. Her husband and three daughters are what drive her to work so hard. However, one of the perks of being an entrepreneur is that she can strike a balance between running her own business and being there for all of her kids’ school trips and activities. Having three daughters, Yael feels it’s her job to build up their confidence and self-esteem, something that she thinks many young girls struggle with. “I tell them that confidence will lead the way. Just believe in yourself.” She wants for her girls what she’s been able to find for herself. The advice she gives them for their future is to “find what your passion is and do that. Success will come easier if you’re doing something you love.” With a laugh, she says, “I sound like a Hallmark card.”
When she does find a little time for herself, she can be found outdoors. In the winter, she hits the slopes to snowboard. During the summer months, she can be found relaxing on the beach or sailing. She describes the summer as her favorite season because “people are just happier.”
Her bright outlook on life is complemented by her long, curly bright red hair. In fact, the only time she becomes upset is when she talks about some of the ways she’s seen clients suffer. She gets noticeably distressed when describing new clients who have been levied by the IRS. “They’re taking their paycheck, they can’t pay their mortgage or put food on the table. The real reason that upsets me so much is because it means they waited too long. It distresses me that they didn’t come to me sooner because I never would’ve let it get to that point.”
Fortunately, most of her clients don’t let their situation get quite that bad. At the end of the case, Yael frequently hears “I feel so much better” from her clients. To her, that’s what it’s all about. “I love seeing a happy client with their IRS problems resolved in a way that exceeded their expectations.”