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Tax Debt Help and Resources

Tax Debt Help and Resources
Daniel Cohen
UpdatedDec 1, 2010
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    4 min read
Key Takeaways:
  • IRS Tax Debt is a serious financial issue that should be addressed fast.
  • An Offer in Compromise is a settlement on your IRS debts.
  • Installment Agreements allows you to arrange a payment plan for your tax debts.

Tax Debt Help and Resources

IRS Tax Debt Guide

If you have a tax debt from past years, or have already done your taxes for this year and expect to owe money, you can find a solution. The solution is not to ignore the debt, however. Although the IRS only has ten years to collect a tax debt, it has many very powerful tools at its disposal during those ten years. You’ll be much happier if you deal with it now. Possible solutions include:

  • Savings and personal loans
  • Extension of time to pay
  • Temporary delay
  • Installment agreement
  • Offer-in-compromise

Savings and Personal Loans

If you owe an IRS tax debt, the best solution is to use your savings or borrow funds to pay the debt. By paying the full balance when it’s due, the amount you owe will be much lower than if you request one of the IRS payment options, which will include penalties and interest. If you borrow against your home to pay the IRS debt, the interest you pay may actually be tax deductible. Be careful when drawing on a retirement account to pay the debt, as it can very likely lead to additional taxes owed. Check with a tax professional and the retirement plan administrator, whenever you are considering taking money out of your retirement plan.

Extension of Time to Pay Tax Debt

If you prepare your taxes before April 15 and know you won’t be able to pay the tax due, you can file for an extension of time to pay. Depending on your circumstances, the extension will be anywhere from 30 to 120 days. Pay as much as you can early to reduce the late-pay penalties and interest owed. Filing an extension will protect you from the late filing penalties, which are severe. You must request the extension before April 15 in order to qualify.

Temporary Delay

If you’re experiencing a financial hardship or other personal hardship such as severe illness or a loss of financial records due to a natural disaster, the IRS may grant a temporary delay of payment of your tax debt. In some cases, penalties may also be waived, but interest usually applies. You must contact the IRS to request the delay. The sooner you contact them, the sooner they can help you.

Tax Debt Installment Agreement

If your debt is large enough that you can’t pay it within 120 days, you can request an installment agreement from the IRS. Depending on how much you owe, an IRS officer can review your income and expenses, and then determine a payment plan based on what the IRS thinks you can afford to pay. Interest will apply, but the plan will legally extend the amount of time you have to pay. During that time, you must stay current with your tax returns and payroll taxes. You must also make every installment payment on time. If you fail to do either, the IRS may rescind the agreement.


Offers-in-compromise are frequently advertised on television, but they aren’t the simple tax debt solutions they’re made out to be. Only 15% of OIC applications are approved. You must be able to show the IRS that you can't afford to pay the debt, based on a full analysis of your household income, your assets, and your IRS-defined allowable living expenses. A successful OIC will result in you paying the most the IRS determines that you can afford to pay. As of 2006, there are additional restrictions governing OIC applications and agreements:

  • You must pay a $150 application fee
  • The IRS must process the application within 24 months or it is deemed automatically accepted (average time is 12 months)
  • You must be current with your estimated tax or payroll withholding for the current year
  • You must not be in bankruptcy
  • You must have filed all required tax returns
  • If offering a lump sum, you must make a 20% down payment
  • If offering monthly payments, you must make those monthly payments while the offer is being processed.
  • If you fail to make a 20% down payment or miss one of the monthly payments, depending on the option you chose, the offer will be considered withdrawn
  • If you fail to file a tax return on time or pay a tax liability in full by the due date at any time during the five years after the OIC is accepted, it will be withdrawn and the full liability will again be due

If you owe a tax debt, the best option is to pay it in full by the due date. If you can’t do that, then consider the remaining options. Avoiding the debt is never the best option. Instead, contact a tax professional for helping finding the right solution for you.


ccarol, Jun, 2012
I owe $3,376.23 for the year 2011. i only have my social security check each month to live on. i lost my job in 2010. Previously i WORKED 46 YEARS AND ALWAYS PAID TAXES ON TIME. I have tried to call and set up a payment plan. To no avail i have been put on hold over 1 to 2 hrs and no one ever picked up. i can only pay $50 month for 12 months then may be able to pay in full after 2013.Please contact me to sedt up plan.
BBill, Jun, 2012
Carol, we are not the IRS and can't set up an installment agreement for you. You can apply online, try calling again, or visit a local IRS office.

The IRS may allow you to spread out payments for as long as five years, resulting in a payment not much greater than the $50 a month you say you can afford. There is a small fee for setting up a payment plan.
RRosanne, Apr, 2011
I owe $7243.00 on State taxes I will be able to pay hopefully $ 4000.00 of it but it might be a few days late can I set uo an installment plan for the rest. I am uninployed at this time. I made the mistake of taking out my retirement money and lent it to people that promised to pay it back only to find out later that I was scammed of all of it . It was reported to the police, i have a case # if u need it But I am so broke right now that any suggestions you might have would be greatly appreciated.
BBill, Apr, 2011
You indicated you are a Wisconsin resident. Talk to an agent at the Wisconsin Dept. of Revenue. I would be stunned and amazed if the Dept. of Revenue does not offer you a payment plan.