Should it look like it’ll be difficult for you, a financially struggling taxpayer, to pay all the federal income taxes you owe, here are your options, along with some key facts you need to know.
There are two distinct aspects involved in paying taxes: filing your return and paying it. Not filing your return on time and not paying what you owe come with different ramifications. It may surprise you to know that if you don’t file your return on time, even if you can’t pay all that you owe by April 15, you will be facing the largest penalty.
Failure to file your tax returns on time and not paying all of the income tax that you owe by the due date will cost you a monthly penalty of 5 percent of your tax bill plus interest. However, if you do file on time, or request an extension by midnight on April 15, the penalty drops to half of 1 percent plus interest. So, at the very least, file your income tax return or request an extension by April 15. Paying as much as you can by the filing deadline will lower your costs as well since the late payment penalty is based on a percentage of what you haven’t paid.
A Taxpayer Has Several Options
A distressed, financially struggling taxpayer will have to come to an agreement on how to pay the income tax owed. Don’t expect this to be “forgotten.” The picture of Uncle Sam may look friendly, but the IRS has some enforcement/collection tactics available to them that other creditors do not. The IRS could be garnishing your wages, taking money from your bank accounts, or slapping a lien on your property.
Don’t let things get to that point. Instead, explore the following options:
- Short-term extension: If you think you can pay all of the income tax that you owe within 120 days of April 15, a taxpayer can apply online for an installment agreement You can also call the IRS at 800-829-1040 (maybe the IRS will answer the phone) for more information. There is no up-front fee for a short-term payment extension. However, a late-pay penalty (half of 1 percent of the balance owed per month) and interest will be charged. Still, that should amount to less than what you’d be charged with a longer-term payment agreement.
- Long-term extension: If you can’t pay the income tax you owe within 120 days, you may be eligible to pay your income tax bill in monthly installments over the course of up to 72 months. There is a fee of $120 to establish an installment agreement, or $52 if you agree to have your payments automatically deducted from your bank account. While you’ll still have to pay interest, if you filed your return on time, the monthly late-pay penalty will be half of 1 percent of what you owe. If you owe the IRS $50,000 or less (including penalties and interest), you should be able to set up the online payment agreement. If you owe more than $50,000, you’ll need to complete IRS Form 9465 and supply the IRS with a Full Financial (IRS Form 433-F). Also, should a taxpayer owe $50,000 or more, the IRS will file Tax Lien regardless whether you have an Installment Agreement or not.
- Temporary delay: If your circumstances are such that you can’t pay any of what you owe, and you’re not sure when you’ll be able to, the IRS may temporarily delay enforcement/collection until your financial condition improves. However, your income tax debt will grow because penalties and interest will accrue until you come up with the full amount. During the temporary delay, the IRS will continue to review your ability to pay. The government may also place a tax lien on real estate or other property you own. Contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 (maybe the IRS will pick up the phone) for more information about requesting a temporary delay.
- Offer in Compromise: To be eligible and qualified for an IRS settlement through the Offer in compromise program, you must owe the IRS $10,000 or more. If you can’t afford an installment agreement, you could offer to settle your tax debt in one lump sum (you can also make monthly installments on the settlement) totaling less than what you owe. Whether you’ll qualify depends, in part, on your income, expenses, assets and the IRS’ assessment of your ability to pay. As of the date of this writing, the IRS has been accepting 42% of the settlement offers submitted. The clients at Flat Fee Tax Service, Inc. have had a 90% success rate. There is also a non-refundable $186 application fee, and most applicants have to make an up-front, non-refundable partial payment when they apply. So, make sure you feel confident about meeting the requirements. You’ll need to demonstrate that situation is such that you will never be able to pay back everything you owe.
- Currently not Collectible: If a financially struggling taxpayer cannot pay their income tax debt and owes any amount to the IRS and cannot pay, the taxpayer may be declared “Currently not Collectible.” The IRS will file a Tax Lien but will cease all active enforcement action and the Statute of Limitations will continue to run out on your income tax debt.
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