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What If I Owe The IRS And Can't Pay?

Jan 31

Owing money to the IRS can be a stressful and overwhelming situation, especially if you are unable to pay the amount owed. The thought of dealing with the government and potential penalties can be daunting. It's important to understand that you have options and there are ways to manage your tax debt. In this article, we will explore the different options available for individuals who owe the IRS and can't pay, including payment plans and offers in compromise. As we explore all the available possibilities and take steps to solve your tax debt, it's crucial to remember that you are not alone in this. Whether you own a small business, work for yourself, or are simply an individual taxpayer, it is important to be informed of your rights and options when dealing with the IRS. For that reason, seeking professional help is essential. Thus together we will discuss each option’s benefits as well as drawbacks with detailed analysis before making a decision on how best to proceed.

Understanding Your Options

When it comes to owing the IRS and not being able to pay, there are a few options available to help manage your tax debt. You have the option to explore payment plans or apply for an offer in compromise.

Payment Plans:

One option is to set up a payment plan with the IRS. Payment plans, also known as installment agreements, allow you to make payments on your tax debt over a set period of time. There are two types of payment plans available: short-term and long-term. Short-term plans typically last up to 120 days and long-term plans can last up to 72 months. Establishing a payment plan with the IRS necessitates providing them with a financial statement, from which they will decide your monthly installment amount. While this may seem like an ideal solution to managing tax debt, keep in mind that penalties and interest can still accumulate during its course.

Offer In Compromise:

If you're looking to decrease the amount of money owed, submitting an Offer in Compromise (OIC) is a great option. An OIC offers you the opportunity to pay less than what's due by way of a settlement agreement with the IRS. The IRS will consider your income, expenses, and assets when determining if you are eligible for an OIC. If the IRS accepts your OIC, you will have to pay a lump sum or make payments over a period of time. The process for submitting an OIC is more involved than setting up a payment plan and it's important to consider hiring a tax professional to help you navigate the process.

While both payment plans and offers in compromise can help manage your tax debt, it's important to weigh the pros and cons of each option. Payment plans are generally easier to set up and may be a good option if you are able to make regular payments. Offers in compromise can result in a lower overall amount owed but the process is more complex and not everyone will qualify.

Seeking Professional Tax Help:

Regardless of the option you choose, it's important to seek professional tax help. A tax professional can help you understand the process, determine your eligibility for different options and negotiate on your behalf with the IRS.

What Are The Consequences Of Not Paying Your Taxes?

Avoiding paying your taxes can have dire effects, both financially and legally. Thus, it is essential that you are aware of the potential repercussions of not acting swiftly, as well as address any outstanding tax debt without delay.

Wage Garnishment:

One potential consequence of not paying your taxes is wage garnishment. This means that the IRS can take a portion of your wages directly from your employer to pay off your tax debt. The amount that can be garnished is determined by the IRS and is based on your filing status, pay frequency, and the number of dependents. Wage garnishment can have a significant impact on your finances and can make it difficult to pay for basic expenses.


Tax delinquency can have serious consequences - like a lien. A lien is a legal claim on your property, such as your home or car, to guarantee repayment of the taxes due. This could make it hard for you to refinance or sell off your assets and will undoubtedly harm your credit score severely.

Penalties and Interest:

Not paying your taxes can also result in penalties and interest charges. The IRS can charge interest on any unpaid taxes, and penalties can be added for late payments or failing to file a tax return. These charges can significantly increase the amount you owe and make it more difficult to pay off your debt.

What Is The Importance Of Keeping Accurate Records?

It's important to keep accurate records and stay current on your tax filings. Failing to file a tax return can result in additional penalties and make it more difficult to resolve your tax debt. By tracking your records with extreme accuracy, you will be able to benefit from any potential deductions and credits available, ultimately resulting in a lower tax liability.

The Bottom Line:

Managing tax debt can be a daunting process. However, understanding the available options and seeking professional help is key to successfully managing your tax debt. Consider all of the potential solutions, weigh their pros and cons, and decide which option is right for you. Keeping accurate records is also essential if you want to avoid any additional penalties or interest charges. Taking the right steps to manage your debt will help you avoid serious financial and legal repercussions.