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What To Do When You Can't Pay Your Income Taxes Due

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The Worst Thing You Can Do Is To Do Nothing

What happens if April 15th rolls around and you just can't come up with the money to pay your Federal income tax? There are separate penalties for filing late and paying late, and the "failure to file" penalty is much worse than the "failure to pay" penalty:

(Please note that the interest rates used in these examples vary each quarter). Failure to file on time penalty: 5% of the balance due per month as of the time of this writing

Failure to pay on time penalty: up to 1% of the balance due per month,up to a total of 25% of the balance due

To reduce your penalties and interest, file your income tax return by the due date. You'll still incur interest, but you'll avoid the 5% per month penalty for failure to file on time.

For example, if you don't file your return by the due date, and you owe $2,000, you'll pay a combined failure to file and failure to pay penalty of $120 per month until paid in full, up to a maximum of $500. If you owed $10,000, the penalty would be $600 per month, up to a maximum of $2,500.

If you file on time but don't pay on time, you'll incur a late payment penalty of 1% of the tax owed for each month, or part of a month, that the tax remains unpaid, up to a maximum of 25%.

For example, if you file your return by the due date but don't pay your balance of $2,000, you'll pay a late payment penalty of $20 per month. If your balance due is $10,000, your penalty will be $60 per month. As you can see, your penalties are significantly lower if you file your return on time even if you don't pay the taxes due

The penalty is only part of the problem. In addition to the non-payment or late-payment penalty discussed above, you'll also incur interest on the balance due at the rate of 6% per year (as of January 2006. Rates can change quarterly).

Consider Your Alternatives

Consider the alternatives available to you. If your cash shortage is a temporary one, can you get a pay advance at work? Do you have family members who would be willing to lend you the money? Do you have something of value that you could sell to raise the cash? Can you take a draw on your home equity line of credit?

Use a Credit Card

You can charge your taxes on your credit card (American Express, MasterCard, Visa or Discover Card) by contacting a service provider approved by the IRS. You'll be charged a convenience fee of around 2.5% of the amount you're paying, so if you owe $2,000, the fee will be around $50. If you owe $10,000, the fee will be around $250. Don't forget that you'll incur interest charges if you can't pay your credit card balance off quickly.

Official Payments Corporation — 1-800-272-9829
Link2Gov Corporation — 1-888-729-1040

Negotiate an Installment Plan

If you simply can't come up with the money to pay the taxes when due, you may be able to negotiate an installment payment plan with the IRS. Complete Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, and attach it to the front of your income tax return. Include the amount you propose to pay each month and the day of the month you'd like to make your payments. The IRS will notify you if you're approved.

There's a $43 fee for setting up the installment agreement,and you'll incur interest on the balance due.

What If You Just Can't Come Up With the Money Now, or in the Foreseeable Future?

If you owe so much that there's no way you'll ever be able to pay it, the IRS may accept less than the full amount through a program called Offer in Compromise. Complete Form 656, Offer in Compromise, and Form 433A, Collection Information Statement and submit them to the IRS with the $150 application fee.

You'll have to provide a complete personal financial statement including everything you own of value, all the debts you owe, your income, and the amount you're prepared to pay immediately in order to settle your account.

The IRS will evaluate your financial situation and future income potential to determine whether to accept your settlement offer. If the IRS believes it won't be able to collect the full amount, your offer may be accepted. This program is for people in dire financial straits.

Regardless of an installment plan or Offer in Compromise agreement, the IRS will require you to pay all your federal tax liabilities on time for the next five years or until the amount you settled on is paid in full, whichever is longer. If you default on the terms of the Offer in Compromise agreement, all of your back taxes will once again be due in full. The IRS may file a lien on your property to ensure payment, and this will show up on your credit report.

The Bottom Line

This can all be very confusing, but the bottom line is this: even if you can't pay your taxes due, don't compound your problems by failing to file your income tax return. You could end up paying penalties totaling half the amount you owe, before interest is even added on!

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