Regarding financial well-being, no one wants the burden of tax debt to weigh them down. Whether you’re a small business owner coping with IRS liens or an individual overwhelmed by the amount they owe in back taxes, eliminating your tax bill can be daunting and confusing. This blog post provides an overview of what you need to know about getting rid of your tax debt to move forward confidently toward financial freedom.
Understanding Tax Debt
Tax arrears occurs when taxpayers owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) money in back taxes. Generally, this is caused by an individual needing to pay all their tax liabilities due for a certain period, either through late or nonpayment payments. Once this happens, penalties and fees can accumulate on your debts. Depending on the circumstances, a taxpayer may be able to negotiate with the IRS to reduce their debt or enter into an installment agreement.
Options for Eliminating Tax Debt
Several options are available when it comes to getting rid of tax-debt. These include:
• Bankruptcy: Bankruptcy is another option for discharging tax bill. Tax bill is often considered unsecured, meaning it can be eliminated or discharged in bankruptcy. However, depending on their circumstances, this option may only be ideal for some. Individuals who file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can have their tax debt reduced, but it’s important to remember that some taxes are not dischargeable.
• Payment Plans: The IRS offers payment plans for taxpayers who are unable to pay their full tax liability at once. These plans allow taxpayers to spread their payments over a set period, usually up to 72 months (6 years). While this option may be the best for some, it can come with hefty interest and penalties.
• Offer in Compromise: If you are unable to pay your taxes in full or via an installment agreement, the IRS may accept what is known as an “offer in compromise” (OIC). With this option, taxpayers can offer to pay less than what they owe, often in a lump sum. To be eligible for an OIC, the taxpayer must prove that paying the full amount would create undue financial hardship.
• Federal Tax Lien: In some cases, the IRS may file a federal tax lien against a taxpayer. This official claim gives the IRS the right to take property or assets to pay off a tax arrears. A tax lien can severely damage an individual’s credit score and make accessing loans or other financial products more difficult. It can also make it difficult for them to sell or transfer property. Taxpayers who have had a federal tax lien filed against them may be able to get it removed if they pay off the full debt amount or enter into an acceptable repayment plan with the IRS.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Tax
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a legal process in which debtors can discharge most unsecured debts, including tax bill. This type of bankruptcy is designed to relieve people struggling with overwhelming debt. To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, individuals must pass the means test. This test determines whether or not their income is below a certain level. If it is, then they can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and have their tax debt discharged.
A means test entails comparing an individual’s income to the median income for their state. If their income is lower than the median, they can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and have their tax arrears wiped out. Taxpayers who don’t pass the means test might still be able to qualify if certain other circumstances are present, such as a high amount of medical expenses.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy and Tax
The other type of consumer bankruptcy is Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which involves repaying some or all of your creditors through a court-approved repayment plan. With Chapter 13, taxpayers can agree with the IRS to pay back their tax bill over time. This option can be more advantageous than Chapter 7 for those who can afford to pay off some of their debt and wish to avoid having it fully discharged.
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, creditors are paid back through a set repayment plan lasting up to five years. During this period, the IRS will cease any collection activities, and interest charges will not accrue on your debt. The court will discharge any remaining tax debt when the repayment plan is complete.
Taxpayers should understand that the IRS has the right to object to a repayment plan or any part of it, so it is important to consult a qualified attorney before attempting to negotiate or settle a tax arrears through bankruptcy.
What Happens If You Fail to File Returns Before the Creditors’ Meeting?
If you fail to file your tax returns before the creditors’ meeting, the court may grant a motion for a substitute return. This means the IRS will prepare an estimate of your taxes owed based on their available information. The court can then use this return to determine how much of your debt needs to be paid to creditors through the repayment plan.
It is important to remember that a substitute return can only be used if you have yet to file your taxes. If you can provide your tax returns before the meeting, the court will use those instead to determine how much your debt needs to be repaid.
Unfortunately, substitute returns often result in more tax bill than if you had filed your returns. This is because the IRS may only have access to some of the deductions and credits available to taxpayers. Therefore, filing your returns before the meeting is important for ensuring that only accurate information is used to determine how much your debt needs to be repaid.
Filing for bankruptcy can be difficult, but it is important if you struggle with overwhelming tax arrears. Understanding how Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy affect your taxes can help you decide the best way to address your financial situation. Additionally, it is important to work with a qualified attorney and tax professional when considering bankruptcy to address your tax bill.
Experienced attorneys can help you understand the process and make sure you are making the best decisions for your financial future. By following these tips, you can ensure that you take the necessary steps to address your tax debt and move on with your life. With the right strategy, filing for bankruptcy can be an excellent way to get relief from overwhelming tax arrears.