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.

No Pardon for Billy the Kid: What About YOUR Tax Problems?

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has just announced that he will not pardon Billy the Kid, citing a lack of conclusiveness and historical ambiguity surrounding the pardon allegedly promised to Billy by then governor Lee Wallace.   The value of a pardon to Billy is of some question, as he has been dead for quite a while now. If he was hoping for official state forgiveness from some spectral perspective, surely he is disappointed but not surprised — many commentators had said the pardon didn’t have a ghost of a chance.

Massachusetts Tax Help

Why did the effort to pardon Billy the Kid fall apart?  Some of the issue is the lack of clear documentation about what happened around Billy’s case.  A lack of documentation can be a big problem for tax payers as well: without the right records and proof of your income, expenses, and more, it’s difficult to defend yourself against allegations from the IRS and state tax authorities.  If they say you’re not in compliance, and you have no proof to the contrary, are you out of options?

Did you know that the IRS keeps records about every taxpayer?  The Freedom of Information Act, passed by Congress in 1966 and updated three times since, entitles you to a copy of the file the IRS has on you.  Getting a copy of this file can be essential in helping you determine the best way to resolve your tax issues.  Professionals such as a tax CPA or income tax attorney request and access these records all of the time to best protect their client’s interests.  You can request a copy of your file yourself, but that request from an individual taxpayer can attract unwanted attention.  Interpreting the IRS’s files is difficult and requires specialized knowledge.

You deserve qualified, experienced professional assistance with your tax problems.  You have a right to know the information the IRS keeps about you and your family!  There may be some unanswered questions about Billy the Kid’s history with the government — but you don’t need to have any unanswered questions yourself!

2011: The Year Your Tax Problems Disappear?

The New Year starts next weekend.  That means it’s time to ask yourself, “Have I had enough? Am I tired of screening calls so I don’t have to talk to the IRS? Am I tired of being afraid to check the mail? Am I tired of my employer getting embarrassing phone calls about my financial situation?”

If the answer to these questions is YES, take heart!  2011 can be the year your tax problems disappear!  Resolve to  make this the last year you have the stress, anxiety, and pressure of late tax returns, unpaid taxes, and federal tax liens weighing on your mind.  Here’s what you have to do:

Find Help for Your Tax Problems

You can’t fix your tax problems on your own. Federal and state tax codes are more complex now than they’ve ever been.  Even the people who work at the IRS have a hard time figuring out the proper answer to challenging tax questions — you can’t rely on them for guidance!  You deserve an advocate, working on your side, protecting your interests, to handle your tax problems.  You want the best Massachusetts tax attorney or CPA who specializes in resolving IRS and state tax problems!  That doesn’t mean paying top dollar.  You can find an affordable tax attorney or CPA who has the expertise to resolve your tax issues.

Don’t be afraid.  Having tax problems does not mean you’re a bad person!  Many, many people get into trouble with the IRS due to simple mistakes: missing deadlines, for example.  Sometimes your tax problems are entirely not your fault.  Almost every day in the news, you’ll find stories of celebrities and business tycoons that have run afoul of the IRS.  It doesn’t matter who you are or what your tax problems may be:  They still have to be fixed!  Don’t let fear sideline you — or impact your financial future!

Finding Qualified Tax Help in Massachusetts

Don’t trust your financial future to just anyone. People on TV may promise big results — but deliver next to nothing in the way of tax help.  Ask questions and do your research: you want to work with a tax problem solver you can trust!