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.

Man Indicted for Falsifying Charitable Deductions
Los Angeles (June 21, 2011)

A Santa Monica man was arrested Friday morning on charges that he committed tax fraud and attempted to interfere with the administration of the Internal Revenue laws.

Howard Hal Berger, 51, appeared Monday morning before U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter. Berger previously pleaded not guilty to the charges specified in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury late last week.

According to the indictment, Berger filed a partnership income tax return for Lab Holdings LLC for the 2006 tax year which falsely reported a contribution of $1 million, substantially reducing his income tax liability.

In addition, Berger filed an individual income tax return for the 2006 tax year which falsely reported gifts to charity of $991,700 on the attached schedule of itemized deductions.

While under audit by the Internal Revenue Service, Berger submitted a false charitable donation letter in an attempt to substantiate the deduction for gifts to charity taken on the 2006 individual income tax return.

If convicted of all charges specified in the indictment, Berger faces up to nine years in prison and fines totaling $750,000. Berger is currently free on bond pending trial. A trial is scheduled for Aug. 9, 2011, before Judge Walter.

The investigation of Berger was conducted by IRS-Criminal Investigation in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

Lots of Big Stars Are in Big Trouble With the Tax Man

By Lindsay Carlton
Published March 21, 2011|

March 26, 2010: Al Pacino poses for a portrait in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Despite their high-priced tax attorneys and mega-millions, big stars can find themselves in big trouble come tax time.

Take Hollywood director Martin Scorsese. He was recently nailed with a $2.85 million bill for unpaid taxes. Scorsese was charged for past-due tax and related interest penalties. Although Scorsese’s spokeswoman Leslee Dart says the entire amount is now paid in full and that he has no current IRS debts, sources say the Oscar-winning director’s tax woes are due to his dealings with celebrity accountant Kenneth Starr. Starr was jailed for seven and a half years for a $33 million ponzi scheme, and has duped other superstars in his corrupt plots. He scammed Hollywood heavyweights such as Uma Thurman, Lauren Bacall and Al Pacino, to name a few.

Pacino allegedly failed to pay taxes for two years, a bill for $169,143 in 2008 and $19,140 in 2009, totaling $188,283. Anyone who would stiff this “Godfather” star out of $200,000 might be sleeping with the fishes too, but luckily for Al Pacino, the IRS doesn’t handle their business the same way the mob does. Pacino poured the blame on Starr, his business manager and close friend for years. The money hungry financier apparently used a lot of his fraudulent earnings to play sugar-daddy to his younger wife, ex-pole dancer Diane Passage, who enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. “Managers can be very helpful, but many are not skilled in the area of tax planning and some are outright greedy when given control of celebrities finance,” said Ray Lucia, a certified financial planner.

A spokesperson for Pacino said the “Scarface” actor is working to resolve the situation as soon as possible with a new financial manager.

Another Hollywood cash cow who skipped his IRS bill is Jennifer Lopez’s husband, Marc Anthony. The Latin crooner owes $3.4 million for unpaid taxes on his Long Island mansion. Anthony has a history of running from the tax man. In 2007 he failed to pay taxes on his $15 million income over a five-year-period and ended up paying $2.5 million in back taxes. One might assume that such a power couple would have a better handle on their finances, but some tax attorneys aren’t surprised. “They live in a world where everyone gives them more and more leeway and slack — and they slowly develop an attitude of being above it all,” said Doug Burns, a federal prosecutor who has prosecuted dozens of tax fraud cases.

One pop star even sang a song about paying bills, the aptly titled “Bills Bills Bills,” but then forgot to fork up the cash herself. Former Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland owes $98,634 in back taxes. The government filed a lien against her on Nov. 8, according to the Detroit News. The songstress hasn’t had much success since splitting from the Beyonce Knowles-led girl group. She also recently parted ways with her long-time manager and Beyonce’s father, Matthew Knowles. “Celebs who are attending to other details in their lives may brush taxes aside for later, but by then it’s too late,” said host Kelli Zink.

“Survivor” winner Richard Hatch has had his fair share of tax trouble. The reality star spent three years in jail for failing to pay taxes on the $1 million prize money he won on the hit show. Hatch is heading back to the slammer for not settling a tax bill that is now reportedly up to $2 million. Hatch is currently starring in Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” show. Although the episodes of the series have already been filmed, he will miss the live finale in May while he finishes his sentence behind bars. Along with his prison term, Hatch will remain under supervision for 26 months, and 25 percent of his wages will be garnished to pay back the IRS.

Joe Francis, founder of “Girls Gone Wild,” also spent some time behind bars for his tax tribulations and says the IRS targets celebrities every year around tax day. To avoid glitches in your taxes, Francis recommends Hollywood newcomers hire reputable business managers and get references from their other clients. “Good financial managers are helpful, ones like Bernie Madoff are awful. I was young, I was making a lot of money,” Francis said. “You trust people like lawyers and accountants. I didn’t even sign my own tax return. I didn’t even question it.”

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.