Taxpayers who can’t pay the full amount of federal taxes they owe should file their tax return on time and pay as much as possible. This will help reduce penalties and interest. If they can’t pay their full bill, they have some other options.
Get a loan
In many cases, loan costs may be lower than the combination of interest and penalties the IRS must charge under federal law. Normally, the late-payment penalty is 0.5% per month, not to exceed 25% of unpaid taxes. The interest rate, adjusted quarterly, is currently 4% per year, compounded daily.
If a taxpayer can’t get a loan, the IRS offers other options.
Online payment plans
Most individual taxpayers qualify to set up an online payment plan with the IRS, and it only takes a few minutes to apply. Applicants are notified immediately if their request is approved. There is no need for them to contact the IRS for a payment plan or an installment agreement. The agency generally processes online payment plans quicker than requests made with electronically filed tax returns. If a taxpayer just filed their return and they know they’ll owe a balance, they may be able to set up a payment plan online before they even receive a notice or bill.
There are two main types of online payment plans:
- Short-term payment plan – The payment period is 180 days or less and the total amount owed is less than $100,000 in combined tax, penalties, and interest. There’s no fee for setting one up, though interest and the late-payment penalty continue to accrue.
- Long-term payment plan – Payments are monthly, and the amount owed must be less than $50,000 in combined tax, penalties, and interest. If the IRS approves a long-term payment plan, also known as an installment agreement, a setup fee normally applies. 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 reduced while an installment agreement is in effect. The late payment penalty accrues at the rate of 0.25% per month, instead of up to 1% per month.
Taxpayers who do not qualify for an online payment agreement may still be able to pay in installments. Taxpayers should review the Additional Information on Payment Plans page of IRS.gov for details.
If the IRS determines a taxpayer is unable to pay, it may delay collection until their financial condition improves. However, the total amount owed will still increase because penalties and interest continue to accrue until the taxpayer pays in full. Taxpayers can request a delay by calling the phone number on their notice or 800-829-1040.
Some taxpayers qualify to have their late-filing or late-payment penalties reduced or eliminated. This is done on a case-by-case basis, based on reasonable cause. Alternatively, where a taxpayer has a history of compliance, the IRS can typically provide relief under the First Time Abatement program. Taxpayers should review the Penalty Relief page of IRS.gov for more information.
Offer in Compromise
Some taxpayers qualify to settle their tax bill for less than the full amount due, through an Offer in Compromise. There is a $205 non-refundable OIC application fee; however, it is generally waived for individual low-income taxpayers. Offers require a partial payment of the offer amount except for offers filed based on doubt as to liability. The Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool can help determine eligibility for individuals interested in applying.