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Super Lawyers
State Bar of California

Palm Desert Tax Lawyers

The Sanger & Molever firm, located in Palm Desert, California represents clients throughout California and the United States. Our tax attorneys focus their practice on serving individuals, trustees, executors, corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies with a wide range of tax planning, estate planning, trust and estate administrations, tax situations, and business issues.

Sanger & Molever is a boutique law firm rated AV by Martindale Hubbell, the highest rating of attorney excellence.

Howard Sanger, the firm's founding attorney, has been certified as a Tax Law Specialist by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. That certification demonstrates his high level of expertise in the field of tax law. Due to his expertise in the field, Howard Sanger was chosen to co-author the Trustee Accounting Powers of the Continuing Education of the Bar three volume Will Drafting treatise. That chapter addresses common Will and trust fiduciary subtrust funding accounting issues, and principal and income accounting issues that are the focus of many disputes between fiduciaries and beneficiaries.

Jeff Molever has been meeting the legal needs of clients since 1982. Mr. Molever’s tax planning experience as a CPA and as an attorney, coupled with his LL.M. in Taxation, helps him provide clients with valuable expertise in planning for their future and solving legal issues.

You can employ a tax attorney prophylactically, to advise you of the tax law, and to help you plan your business or personal transactions to comply with the law, and to minimize taxes you otherwise would pay to the politicians. Using tax lawyers in a “planning mode” is one option . Or, you can employ a tax attorney in a “repair mode”, after you have completed a transaction, and you have a tax dispute with the IRS, with the FTB, or the EDD.

Experience teaches it’s best to employ a tax attorney prophetically: in the “ planning mode ” and not in the “ repair mode ”.

Planning to properly structure prospective transactions (whether business or personal transactions) — the “planning mode” — ultimately saves time and money, and minimizes confrontations with the tax authorities.

However, if you are already faced with a tax audit, or a 30-Day Letter, or a 90-Day Letter, or tax levies and tax liens (i.e. “enforced collection”), you are in the “repair mode”. In the repair mode, our Palm Desert tax attorneys can provide the expertise to deal with the IRS, and to negotiate a resolution to your tax problem in the most favorable manner possible, given the facts and the law that applies to your situation.

Notwithstanding the Sanger & Molever firm’s knowledge of the tax law, and years of experience in the tax arena, the firm’s attorneys are not magicians. If you are in the “repair mode”, lacking a magic wand to make the IRS go away, Sanger & Molever can honestly advise you if the IRS has rightly attacked you, or just partially rightly attacked you. Or, just totally erroneously attacked you.

And, for many repair-mode-clients, tax attorneys such as those at Sanger & Molever in Palm Desert can provide a major benefit: The firm can act as a buffer between you and the IRS. For many repair-mode-taxpayers, that buffer-role mitigates their sleepless nights and the anxiety of dealing face-to-face with the IRS. When Sanger & Molever acts as a buffer, without a prescription for an Alpha blocker or a Beta blocker, IRS induced hypertension and elevated high blood pressure, is often avoided.

Sanger & Molever also advise and organize California business entities, structure business sales and purchases, and assist in personal and commercial real estate transactions. With a strong focus on overall tax planning for individuals and businesses, especially in the context of business sales and real estate transactions, Sanger & Molever has successfully represented countless clients before the Federal and California taxing authorities in income, estate, gift, property, sales tax audits. If you are in the Palm Desert area and are in need of a skilled tax attorney, Sanger & Molever has a proven record of assisting same-sex couples in both federal and state tax issues. Some of the most typical documents and projects within the Tax Planning and disputes practice area include:

Tax Controversy

When an individual or a business must face the IRS, the California Franchise Tax Board, or the California State Board of Equalization, the odds seem stacked against the taxpayer in the dispute with the governmental agency. Engaging our Palm Desert tax attorneys balances the governmental agency dispute, often, reaching a satisfactory settlement without the need of a court trial.

Tax Debt/Collection

If you have not paid your assessed taxes, the government can employ various methods (euphemistically called “enforced collection”) to collect your tax debt. The IRS’s arsenal of collection methods include recording tax liens, levying bank accounts, seizing your business or personal assets including your home or other real estate. In some cases, your passport could be in jeopardy. Our Palm Desert tax lawyers at Sanger & Molever can help you deal with IRS levies and IRS tax liens, and hopefully avoid your rent, mortgage, utility, and credit card checks bouncing, by exploring installment agreements and Offers In Compromise, and perhaps getting some penalties abated.

Proposition 13 Property Tax Issues

The greed of spendthrift politicians has made property taxes a major source of money to fund “free” government programs. Thanks to Proposition 13, a statutory cap protects you from the politicians willy nilly increasing your property taxes unless you forfeit the cap by thoughtlessly causing a Change In Ownership (“CIO”). If you are concerned about property taxes, and CIO’s, consult the Sanger & Molever.

Trust Fund / Payroll Tax Problems

Payroll tax obligations could expose you to personal liability for unpaid trust fund payroll taxes. Sanger & Molever’s skilled Palm Desert tax lawyers can help you determine whether a “worker” is an “employee” for which you must withhold trust fund payroll taxes. And if the IRS attempts to assess you personally for unpaid trust fund taxes, (the “trust fund recovery penalty” or the “100% Penalty”), Sanger & Molever can defend you.

Estate Planning

By greatly increasing the Applicable Exclusion Amount to $11,400,000, the 2017 tax reform act made estate planning much less complicated estate tax-wise. Why? Because for most people, the $11,400,000 Applicable Exclusion Amount ($22,800,000 for a couple with community property) eliminated estate tax concerns.

Nevertheless, because of children that are spendthrifts, of remarriages by reason of divorce or death, grabbing an A-B-C trust form off the internet, could be an expensive blunder. Estate planning for blended families, and for family-owned businesses, and for spendthrift children, requires thought, and careful estate planning. Fortunately today, careful estate planning can be accomplished without concern about death taxes. You can do what is right” for your family. “

Additionally, if your estate plan does not involve a blended family or a family business, if your current estate plan predates the 2017 tax act, and funds the Bypass Trust with the applicable exclusion amount, you should consult Sanger & Molever to learn why your old estate plan probably should be updated for income tax basis purposes.

The Sanger & Molever’s experienced Palm Desert lawyers can help you address troublesome common estate planning situations pregnant with problems that can fester and lead to family turmoil and litigation. Common situations that produce family turmoil and litigation: (a) blended family situations, where there are children from prior marriages; (b) family held business situations, where some children are in the business, and other children are not involved with the family business.

Probate and Trust Administration

When a person dies, the law mandates a “final” accounting for the decedent. That final accounting takes place in the Probate Court, or in a postdeath trust administration process. The probate process and the postdeath trust administration process have as their primary purpose, the decedent’s assets pass to the decedent’s beneficiaries — that all the decedent’s taxes (both income and estate taxes) be paid, and all the decedent’s creditors be paid.

In the context of probates and PDTA’s, Sanger & Molever can represent the fiduciary or the beneficiaries. Representing the fiduciary, our proficient Sanger & Molever tax attorneys will guide the fiduciary in discharging his duties imposed by law (i.e. pay taxes; pay creditors, prepare a subtrust asset accounting; prepare a final accounting, and lastly pay the beneficiaries). Representing the decedent’s beneficiaries, our Sanger & Molever Palm Desert tax lawyers will carefully review the fiduciary’s accountings, to make certain the fiduciary properly inventoried all the decedent’s assets, that no assets “went missing”; that the proper dollar amount of assets gets distributed to the subtrusts and to the beneficiaries.

Fiduciary Accountings; Misappropriations. Stale Accountings

The Probate Code describes the required contents and the format of fiduciary accountings. The Probate Code rules (which include the Principal and Income Act) are detailed. Many believe that if a Probate Court issues an order for final distribution, the order confirms the accuracy of the final accounting. Thus, they believe the fiduciary did everything correctly, that the fiduciary accounting was done correctly, and that the fiduciary will correctly distribute to the decedent’s beneficiaries what they are entitled to. That’s untrue. Sanger & Molever’s Palm Desert tax lawyers have decades of experience in handling fiduciary accountings

For want of time and for want of staff, a Probate Court order that approves a fiduciary accounting simply reflects that the Probate Court staff did what amounts to a cash-in, cash-out accounting, and that the fiduciary did not walk off with any of the decedent’s assets. The order does not mean the fiduciary properly did a subtrust asset accounting (i.e. that the subtrusts for different beneficiaries were properly funded), or that the fiduciary properly characterized “income” and “principal”, which ultimately go to different beneficiaries (i.e. the widow-income-beneficiary vs. the children from the decedent’s first marriage, who are the principal beneficiaries).

If you are a fiduciary, skittery about being sued because your subtrust asset accounting or your principal and income accounting, might be faulty, have Sanger & Molever’s Palm Desert tax attorneys prepare (or review) your fiduciary accounting. If you are a beneficiary, and you are concerned that the fiduciary has a conflict of interest (i.e. blended family situation), and the accounting might shortchange you, you should engage Sanger & Molever to review the fiduciary accounting.

Family Business Planning

Starting or running a business can be fraught with problems. Add in the personalities and the psychological issues within a family business, and you have a recipe for anything between a well-run operation and … a disaster. Pre-death estate planning for a family business is essential where some children are “in the business”, and others have nothing to do with the business. Family business planning can involve parsing a business into different division, or drafting a buy-sell agreement where the children “in the business” must purchase their siblings interest in the business, or planning for an independent board of directors to oversee the business. Using Sanger & Molever’s very capable tax attorneys can help you consider possible solutions that might preserve both the family business and cordial relationships among the children of the next generation.

Bankruptcy Tax Discharge Rules

If you owe substantial unpaid taxes, bankruptcy can eliminate the unpaid taxes … assuming you can meet the statutory tests. Our firm can tell you whether you meet the tests, and thus if bankruptcy is something you should consider. Stating the bankruptcy tests is simple. Applying the tests is not simple. Why? Because of the likely presence of many “tolling events”. If you are considering a tax-motivated bankruptcy, before filing, consult with the Sanger & Molever Palm Desert tax lawyers to carefully review the facts of your situation, and the extent to which bankruptcy will discharge some or all of your tax arrearages.

Buying-Selling a Business

Selling a business requires thoughtful planning. If it’s a small closely held business, that planning should include engaging an appraiser to value the business entity, or to value the “inside assets” of the entity, if you intend to sell the assets, and not the business entity itself.

Utilizing Sanger & Molever can help you with engaging an appraiser, with the after-tax analysis, and the PTS Rule.

Special Needs Trusts

Where a family has a special needs child, there are both Federal and California government assistance programs that benefit individuals who have a disability that has been “certified.” Various tests exist to determine if or when a person’s disability has been “certified.” If such a child exists, you should discuss with Jeff Molever, possibly creating a Special Needs Trust (“SNT”). Setting up a SNT with Jeff’s assistance can mean a substantially improved life for a special needs child.

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Both Sanger & Molever have LLM degrees in tax, and Mr. Sanger is a Certified Tax Law Specialist. In California there are probably more than a 100,000 licensed lawyers, but only roughly 300 (less than one-half of 1%) have passed the examination to be a Certified Tax Law Specialist. If you need tax savvy attorneys, with years of real-world experience in the areas outlined above, you should contact the law firm of Sanger & Molever: Phone at 760-320-7421 or by Email: jmolever@sangerlaw.com ; or hsanger@sangerlaw.com.

Client Reviews

The Sanger firm has represented my family for greater than a generation, creating and recreating our family trust and wills, as well as innumerable leases and other contracts. I have solid trust in Howard's abilities, particularly his tenacious attention to detail and client needs.

I cannot recommend anyone higher.

Before your negotiations with the IRS, the IRS's levies and tax liens, would have driven us out of business. Thanks to your negotiations with the IRS Revenue Officer, our company was not shut down, and our company is now back on its feet, and again successfully operating. Plus, an extra special "thanks" for serving as a buffer between us and the antagonistic IRS Revenue Officer whose aggressive "enforced collection" threats, made it impossible for me to sleep at night, and left me with blood pressure far above 80/120. M.Y.
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  1. 1 Certified Tax Law Specialist
  2. 2 88+ Years of Combined Experience
  3. 3 Resolving Routine & Challenging Matters

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