Three Ways to Deal with IRS Debt

You owe the IRS a lot of money. What can you do to get your life back on track? Basically, it comes down one of three options:

  • Convince the IRS that you are not in a position to pay
  • Make a deal to make monthly payments over a period of time
  • Make an Offer-in-Compromise in that the IRS will take some smaller amount and write off the debt balance.

Figuring out which of these three doors is the best option for you depends on your situation as defined by an IRS formula called the Reasonable Collection Potential or RCP. The RCP takes your monthly income and offsets that with “allowable” expenses to determine your disposable income (i.e., what you could pay the IRS monthly). This is the base line amount for negotiations with the IRS.

If your RCP is zero, then the IRS will check a box on your file as “Uncollectable” and go away for 18 to 24 months. They will revisit the case every couple of years until the Statute of Limitations expires at which time, they will write-off the balance.

If your RCP is a positive number, all is not lost. You can to some extent arrange your financial affairs so as to minimize the RCP calculation. Making these payments regularly usually means that the IRS will leave you alone until the Statute of Limitations date gets close. If a final check of your records does not show anything stupid like the purchase of Leer Jet, then they will likely write-off the balance.

Finally, there is the Offer-in-Compromise that is so famously shown on TV as “I only paid pennies on the dollar”. Frankly, that is hooey. Why would the organization with the most collection powers in the world just let someone go? The answer is that they don’t. Fully 80% of Offers are rejected by the IRS. The 20% that are accepted only happen because the taxpayer was able to demonstrate that this was the best deal that the IRS could expect to make.

There is a fourth option that makes sense in some cases – filing bankruptcy. The rules are a little complicated and you need to consider this with an experienced attorney who specializes in bankruptcy.

There are ways to navigate out of this mess. It takes a considerable amount of work to evaluate which is the best route to take.

Author: Jim Payne

Jim Payne, a Florida Certified Public Accountant (CPA) since 1976, offers candid insights on getting square with the IRS — with the least pain, and at the lowest cost — with (or without) the help of a tax representative. Mr. Payne is a former IRS agent and expert in business profitability, IRS audits, IRS payroll tax, and IRS non-filer issues. As a Tax Representative, his goal is clear: " I will speak on your behalf to all IRS agents, so you never have to, and I'll guide you in executing a strategy to resolve your IRS problem so you can get back to enjoying life."

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