Articles Posted in Tax Debt

Which Option Should You Use to Settle Your Tax Debt?
Choosing the wrong option to settle your tax debt can be a very costly error. If you apply for an installment agreement, when you could have eliminated some of your debt with an Offer in Compromise, it could end up costing you thousands, and you can’t expect the IRS to notify you of your alternative settlement options. They will simply accept your payments, while you are forced to take on debt or deal with other financial difficulties in order to pay off your tax debt.

There are several options available to settle your tax debt. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, many taxpayers will be able to use one or more of these methods to reach a tax debt settlement.

Installment Agreements

Actions to Take Before You Can Pursue an IRS Tax Settlement
Before attempting to settle your IRS tax debt, there are a few things that every taxpayer should do. While some tax settlement cases can be fairly straightforward, there may be more advanced settlement options available for certain taxpayers, and missing out on these opportunities may prevent you from eliminating significant back taxes, penalties, or interest.

Follow these steps before attempting to settle you tax debt:

File Back Tax Returns

What to Do When You Can’t Pay Your Taxes
If you have an upcoming tax payment that you can’t pay, or have delinquent tax debt that is continuing to accrue, you may be tempted to delay filing your taxes. You may also want to avoid responding to any IRS notices you receive because you can’t pay off the tax debt listed on the notice. The desire to hide from your tax problems is understandable, but it is actually the worst thing you can do when you are unable to pay your tax liability.

Instead, you should file your taxes on time, respond to all IRS communications, and consider talking to a tax attorney about your options. Taking this proactive approach has several benefits, including the possibility of substantially reducing the amount of penalties and interest you owe and preventing any IRS collection actions.

Do Not Put Off Filing Your Taxes

Can the IRS Take My House or Car?
The IRS may seize your real estate, car, or other property to satisfy delinquent tax debt. The IRS will sell your interest in the property and apply the proceeds, after the costs of the sale, to your tax debt.

Before selling your property, the IRS will calculate a minimum bid price. You will be given the chance to challenge the fair market value determination of your property.

Then, the IRS will notify you and the public of the pending sale, and wait at least 10 days before proceeding with the sale of your house or other property. If there is money left over after the costs of the seizure and sale and your tax debt has been satisfied, you should receive a refund.

What To Do When You Receive an IRS Notice
Receiving a notice from the IRS is not something most people look forward to. You may be confused as to what the notice is saying, and afraid of the possible consequences, such as owing substantial back taxes, interest, and penalties.

However, there are two important things to know about most IRS notices:

  1. You may have the right to challenge or appeal the action the IRS is taking, and

Will the IRS Ever Return Seized Property?
The IRS is generally required to send you a notice before levying or seizing your property. You may be able to prevent a levy by timely requesting a Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing, and negotiating a payment plan or otherwise contesting the levy. You have 30 days from the date of the notice to request a CDP hearing.

There are situations where the IRS is not required to send you a pre-levy notice, and can take your property without giving you a chance to contest the levy. State tax refunds can be taken without notice, and the IRS can levy without notice if they believe that collection of the tax is in jeopardy.

There are also other situations where you may not get the chance to contest the levy until after your property has been seized. The IRS sends notices to your last known address, and you may never receive these notices if the IRS does not have your current address. You may also simply be unaware of your CDP rights or the 30-day deadline, and miss your chance to request a CDP hearing. Payroll taxes are also subject to different rules.

Is Certain Property Exempt From IRS Seizure?
The IRS has broad authority when attempting to collect delinquent tax, but there are limitations to what collections actions they can take. The IRS generally has to follow certain procedures before they can levy, or seize, your property, and certain property is exempt from IRS seizure.

Generally, the IRS must send a taxpayer a Notice of Intent to Levy, which gives the taxpayer 30 days to request a Collection Due Process hearing. This gives you a chance to avoid the levy by negotiating an IRS installment agreement, an offer in compromise, or disputing the underlying tax liability, if you have not previously had an opportunity to do so.

The IRS also has a general policy to only seize a taxpayer’s assets as a last resort. If you are attempting to negotiate and cooperate, you should be able to work out an arrangement and prevent your assets from being levied.

What Is an IRS Jeopardy Levy?
The IRS must generally issue a notice to a taxpayer before proceeding with a levy on their assets. The taxpayer is given 30-days to request a Collection Due Process hearing (CDP hearing), where the taxpayer can attempt to avoid the levy action by negotiating an installment agreement, disputing the tax liability that resulted in the levy, or presenting other defenses. The IRS will usually not take any levy actions during the 30-day period, or while the CDP hearing process is ongoing.

There are exceptions to the 30-day notice requirement. One situation where the IRS is not required to provide a notice is when they believe that collection of the tax is in jeopardy, known as a jeopardy levy. In this case, the IRS can bypass the notice requirement and immediately levy the taxpayer’s assets, such as a bank account, the taxpayer’s wages, cars, or other property.

In these situations, the taxpayer has no choice but to request an appeal of the levy after it has taken place. The taxpayer may request a CDP hearing, or hearing under the Collection Appeals Program, to argue that the jeopardy levy was unreasonable.

When to Use the IRS Collection Appeals Program
The Collection Appeals Program (CAP) is an IRS procedure available to appeal a broad range of collection actions. However, it does have some pitfalls when compared to a Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing, so consider consulting with a tax attorney if you are not sure which procedure to use.

The CAP procedure can be used to dispute the following collection actions:

•  Before or after the IRS files a Notice of Federal Tax Lien

The Substitute Return: When the IRS Files Unfiled Returns For You
If you fail to file your tax return when you have a legal obligation to do so, the IRS can use the Substitute for Return (SFR) procedure to file it for you. There are several disadvantages to this scenario from a taxpayer’s perspective, and you should take action immediately upon receiving a notice that you haven’t filed your tax return.

First, the IRS will file your return based on reported information from your employers or businesses that paid you as an independent contractor, usually from W-2 or 1099 forms. However, the IRS has no way of knowing what deductions, exemptions, credits, or losses you are eligible to claim your tax return. Therefore, they will not give you credit for any of these amounts that could substantially reduce your tax liability.

Second, the failure to file a tax return is one of the badges of tax fraud, and the IRS may scrutinize a taxpayer who fails to file a return for other indications of tax fraud. This can result in civil tax fraud penalties of 75% of the amount of tax owed, or criminal tax fraud charges, that could result in more fines or jail time.