All IRS Payment Agreements Are Not Equal

By Matthew J. Previte CPA MST
July 7, 2011

If you owe back taxes to the IRS, you have undoubtedly wondered how on earth you’re going to get a mountain of back IRS taxes off your back so you won’t have to live in fear anymore. Living with IRS tax problems is stressful and can cause many problems in your life. One of these IRS tax problems is having an IRS tax levy placed on your wages or bank accounts which leaves you with little to no money to live on. An IRS tax lien can also be filed against you in the public record (usually the county recorder or registry of deeds) which not only lets the world know about your IRS tax problems but severely damages your credit rating by a good 100 points or more, leaving you unable to get a loan. So what can you do to resolve your IRS tax problems?

Although Offer In Compromise is advertised heavily on late night TV, it is rarely an option for most people with back IRS tax debts. Roughly 95% of delinquent taxpayers with IRS tax debts do not qualify for the IRS Offer In Compromise program. Unfortunately, these late night TV hucksters tout the OIC as the magical cure-all for your IRS tax debt woes. There is an old saying, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And so it is with the Offer In Compromise program. Although my tax resolution firm has filed many Offers In Compromise over the last 16 years, most of our clients who owe large back taxes to the IRS do not qualify. Simply put, they have too much equity in assets (bank accounts, houses, retirement accounts, etc) and/or cash flow (what’s left over after what the IRS allows for basic living expenses) to qualify. So that begs the question, what are my options?

While bankruptcy can sometimes be a good option, we will leave that discussion for another article (see archives for February 2011). Short of running out the statute of limitations on collection, which is generally ten years, or hitting the lottery or inheriting a boatload of money and paying off the IRS tax debts in full, the only option left is an installment agreement. However, not all installment agreements are equal.

The IRS has two different types of installment agreements to pay off back taxes. The first type is a Full Pay Installment Agreement. In this type of IRS installment agreement, the monthly payments are sufficient to pay off the back taxes (plus any penalties and interest that accrues) until it is paid off in full. With this type of IRS installment agreement, your payments will full pay the back IRS tax debts, as well as all penalties and interest accruing on the debt, within the statute of limitations on collection. The statute of limitations on collection is generally 10 years. However, there are numerous actions that can extend the time the IRS has to pursue collection action (liens, levies, seizures, etc). We will leave that to another article to discuss.

The second type of IRS installment agreement is called a Partial Pay Installment Agreement. Under this type of IRS installment agreement, the monthly payment is insufficient to pay off the back taxes plus accruing penalties and interest by the collection statute expiration date. What does this mean in plain English? Well, it means that you make payments until the statute of limitations on collection (in IRS speak the “CSED”) runs out. So if at the collection statute expiration date there is $10,000 of unpaid back tax debt, it expires to zero and you do not owe it anymore. Nice huh? There is one catch however. As part of the terms of the Partial Pay Installment Agreement, the IRS will review your financial condition every two years to see whether or not your financial condition (i.e. your ability to pay more) has improved. If it has, they will require a higher payment if your financial condition shows you can afford to pay more towards the back tax debt. The downside of this type of installment agreement is it is possible that in the future your financial condition improves and the new monthly payment required becomes sufficient to full pay the back taxes, penalties, and interest by the collection statute expiration date. In other words, it’s possible to start out with a Partial Pay Installment Agreement and end up with a Full Pay Installment Agreement. The positive aspect of a Partial Pay Installment Agreement is that if your financial condition does not improve enough or at all, you could still end up paying less than the full amount owed and end up with a large balance of unpaid back taxes expiring to zero at the collection statute expiration date.

With all IRS Installment Payment Agreements, your financial condition is reviewed via a Form 433-A and/or 433-B depending on whether your tax issues are personal or business tax debts. Individuals and sole proprietorships use the Form 433-A while corporations, partnerships, and LLCs use a Form 433-B. If you owe personal taxes and have income on your personal tax return from a flow through entity (S corporation, partnership, or LLC treated as an S corporation or partnership), you may have to submit both the Form 433-A and the Form 433-B to get your installment payment agreement approved.

There are strategies to minimize your monthly payment amount but that will be discussed in a future article. Also, just because the IRS initially denies your IRS installment payment agreement does not mean you should give up. Many initially rejected IRS installment payment agreements were later accepted upon filing an Appeal to the IRS Appeals Division. Persistence and perseverance are key to obtaining a fair IRS installment agreement that you can live with.

What To Do When Someone Else Messes Up Your Taxes

“My dad has always done my taxes,” Elaine R., a Boston resident, said. “Ever since I was sixteen years old and had my first job. But last year, something happened. I don’t even know what. But the IRS is sending me all of these notices about an adjusted return and how I have to send them all of this money – plus interest!”

One of the most common reasons people get into trouble with the IRS is when they have an unqualified individual prepare their tax returns. Tax law is really complicated, and it changes every year. Even if the tax law changes don’t affect you, you could be in the same boat as Elaine – the returns that were perfectly adequate when she was a teenager with a single job just don’t cut the mustard now that she’s a homeowner who needs to itemize. It’s easy to make a mistake if you’re not a professional tax preparer.

When Your Income Tax Expert Lets You Down

It can come as a shock when you discover that the person you trusted to do your income taxes didn’t do a great job. You may feel anger, resentment, stress, and fear. After all, the IRS has a great deal of power: they can audit you, levy your bank accounts, and impose significant penalties – and you might not even know what was wrong in the first place.

If you’ve gotten notices from the IRS about errors in your tax return – or if you trusted someone to file tax returns or pay payroll taxes on your behalf and they failed to do so – you need the best tax help available right away. The IRS isn’t going to go after the person who prepared your return: they’re going to go after you. Prepare yourself and protect your interest by working with a team of tax professionals who can solve your problems fast!

IRS pursues ‘Little Fockers’ star Teri Polo

Posted by Robert Snell (The Detroit News) on Mon, Jan 3, 2011 at 11:33 AM

“Little Fockers” star Teri Polo has the country’s top-grossing comedy and a doozy of a tax debt. According to public records, she owes more than $458,000 in delinquent federal taxes.

The 41-year-old Delaware native has starred alongside Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller in “Meet the Parents” and two sequels, and was in “West Wing,” among other notable roles. Her tax woes were highlighted here two years ago before the IRS hit her with a new lien in 2010.

What’s owed:

  • The IRS filed an $116,620 lien against her Jan. 25, 2010, with the Los Angeles County Recorder of Deeds. She owes income taxes from 2008.
  • The IRS filed a $114,844 lien against Polo on Aug. 7, 2009, in the Kent County (Del.) Recorder of Deeds office. According to this lien, she owes income taxes from 2007.
  • The state of California filed a $91,748 lien against Polo on April 24, 2008, in the Los Angeles County Recorder of Deeds office. She owed taxes from 2005 and 2006, according to the recorder’s office. The lien was released Dec. 18, 2009.
  • The IRS filed a $227,144 lien against Polo on Feb. 20, 2008, in the Kent County Recorder of Deeds office. She owes income taxes from 2005 and 2006, according to the lien.

Her side:

Manager Bob McGowan previously told The Detroit News that Polo fell behind paying taxes while going through a costly divorce and during an acting hiatus while raising her children.

She has negotiated a payment plan with the IRS, and her multi-million “Little Fockers” pay day should help toward the debt, McGowan said.