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by Abigail Van Buren

Couple Deep in Tax Hole Need Help in Climbing Out

DEAR ABBY: I have just learned that my sister's husband of 35 years (I'll call him George) hasn't filed their personal income taxes going back a number of years. This has caused a lot of stress and anxiety for my sister, who recently underwent breast cancer treatment. Apparently, he hasn't filed because of his inability to organize. (His family has denial issues.)

Their professional tax preparer has met with both of them and tried to work out a step-by-step program, but George consistently fails to meet the deadlines. I love my sister and want to be as supportive as possible, but I'm unsure what I can do. I have advised her to seek therapy. She has copies of business-related documents relating to the unfiled tax periods, but not enough information to file on her own.

On top of everything else, she has several relationship issues with her children that are causing her grief. What else can I do? -- HELPLESS BIG BROTHER

DEAR BROTHER: Failure to file one's taxes is a federal crime that could land your brother-in-law and sister in the slammer. That's why you should urge your sister to do something she should have done years ago -- take over the family finances.

She and her husband may need more help than their CPA has been able to give them. A group that I have mentioned in my column before is the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA). These are tax specialists -- some of whom are attorneys and CPAs -- who are specifically licensed by the Department of the Treasury. Tell your sister to contact an enrolled agent by visiting www.naea.org. TODAY.

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