Don’t Postpone Your Debt With The IRS
Debt Resolution, IRS Settlements Offer Help for Serious Tax Problems. With Tax Day behind us, consumers and business owners who owe the IRS are not out of the woods. But while death and taxes are the big two inevitabilities, those with serious tax problems should know that it is possible to negotiate with the IRS to reduce past-due tax penalties and payments.
According to statistics Americans, carrying more debt than ever and are also more likely to have tax problems than in the past.
In 2004, the total of uncollected IRS taxes reached upwards of $250 billion. The number of levies (a key enforcement tool in which the IRS takes possession of assets to collect on unpaid taxes) topped 2 million during fiscal year 2004 – a 21 percent increase from 2003 and triple the 2001 number.
According to Stroh, taxpayers with tax debts under $10,000 usually can manage the payment on their own or via an installment plan arranged with the IRS. “Tax problems merit professional help when individuals cannot pay tax liabilities of $10,000 or more,” Stroh says. “At that point, specialists can negotiate directly with the IRS on behalf of these consumers, helping them obtain settlements.”
Tax relief specialists usually are attorneys or certified public accountants with special training and experience. Stroh explains that these experts can navigate the intricacies of IRS forms and calculations, help consumers understand the criteria the IRS imposes, and then help them get back into good standing with the IRS.
Depending on the severity of an individual’s situation, two types of IRS settlement are available:
- An offer in compromise reduces the principal amount owed to the IRS.
- An installment agreement is a payment plan for the amount due and often includes reduced penalties.
- “Remember that you cannot let overdue taxes languish,” Stroh warns. “The IRS is serious — and increasingly aggressive — about tax collection and evasion. Tax debt can result in a lien on a house or garnished wage.”
- Advisors can help consumers with the following steps:
- Evaluate the situation and determine the amount of taxes owed to the IRS.
- Ascertain whether the situation meets IRS standards for “doubt as to collectability” (i.e., unable to pay the full tax burden), “doubt as to liability” (i.e., consumer might not owe the tax), or “economic hardship.”
- Establish the full amount owed, including taxes, penalties, and accumulated interest, and understand whether collection limitations or penalty cancellations are possible.
- Determine the best method for managing and eliminating the tax debt.
- Negotiate with the IRS to settle on an agreed course of action and resolve the debt.
Tax debt can be painful
While facing and handling tax debt can be painful, last year’s bankruptcy reform legislation made it even more crucial for consumers to act. Historically, consumers in severe IRS debt might file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection or wait for the 10-year statute of limitations on tax liability to expire. Now, people are much more limited in the ability to obtain Chapter 7 filings. The bill’s new “means test” leads many consumers instead to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which establishes a repayment plan, rather than wiping out all debt. Consumers with tax debt may find it much less costly and simpler to work with a debt resolution firm’s tax relief service, which allows individuals to set up tax payment plans while avoiding court fees, attorney fees and bankruptcy judgments on their records.
“Whatever means you choose, tax season means it’s time to face the inevitable and manage your tax burdens,” Stroh says. “Fortunately, experts are available to help you along the way.”