Options for Taxpayers Who Can’t Pay in Full
The IRS has reminded taxpayers who owe 2020 taxes that there are different ways to pay their taxes online, including payment options for many people who cannot pay in full.
The IRS stated that the most important thing that taxpayers with a tax bill should do is file a return by the May 17 due date, even if they cannot pay in full, or request a six-month extension to avoid higher penalties for failing to file on time. The IRS emphasized that even though automatic tax filing extensions are available, these extensions do not change the payment deadline.
Further, interest, plus the much smaller late-payment penalty, will apply to any payments made after May 17. Normally, the late-payment penalty is one-half-of-one percent (0.5%) per month. The interest rate, adjusted quarterly, is currently 3% per year, compounded daily.
The IRS urges taxpayers to use Direct Pay, which is the fastest and easiest way to pay a personal tax bill. In addition, the IRS has noted that online payment plans are processed more quickly than requests submitted with electronically-filed tax returns.
There are two main types of online payment plans:
- Short-term payment plan: The payment period is 120 days or less and the total amount owed is less than $100,000 in combined tax, penalties and interest. A 180-day payment plan is also possible, but is only available by calling or writing the IRS.
- Long-term payment plan ( "installment agreement"): Payments are made monthly, and the amount owed must be less than $50,000 in combined tax, penalties and interest. If the IRS approves an installment agreement, a setup fee normally applies, but low-income taxpayers may qualify to have the fee waived or reimbursed. In addition, for anyone who filed their return on time, the late-payment penalty rate is cut in half while an installment agreement is in effect. This means that the penalty accrues at the rate of one-quarter-of-one percent (0.25%) per month, instead of the usual one-half-of-one percent (0.5%) per month.
Taxpayers who do not qualify for an online payment agreement may still be able to arrange to pay in installments. If the IRS determines a taxpayer is unable to pay, it may delay collection until their financial condition improves. Taxpayers can request a delay by calling the phone number on their IRS notice or 800-829-1040.
Some taxpayers can qualify to settle their tax bill for less than the full amount due through an offer in compromise. Though there is typically a $205 non-refundable application fee, it is generally waived for low-income taxpayers, and for offers based on doubt as to liability. The Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool can help determine eligibility for anyone interested in applying.