The IRS, in 2012, expanded their Offer in Compromise program with its Fresh Start Initiative, to help financially struggling taxpayers who are unable to pay their taxes due to financial difficulties. The Fresh Start Initiative, in addition to providing income tax relief to American taxpayers, also helps the IRS keep a check on the number of tax default cases, as it encourages more taxpayers to settle their old income tax debt so they can resume tax compliance.
What Qualifies You For The Fresh Start Initiative?
The IRS, under the Fresh Start Initiative, provides a number of options to financially distressed taxpayers.
1. IRS Penalty Relief
The Fresh Start Initiative allows eligible taxpayers up to a 6-month extension to pay their taxes. The IRS penalty for not paying income tax debt by April 15 is waived off until October 15. If, however, the taxpayer fails to pay their income taxes beyond the revised date, a penalty is charged.
The IRS penalty relief is available to two categories of taxpayers
- Wages earning individuals who have been unemployed for a minimum of 30 consecutive days.
- Individuals who experienced a dip of 25 percent or more in their income due to a slowdown.
Fresh Start Qualification Criteria
If you are married and filing jointly, your adjusted gross income must not exceed $200,000. If your filing status is single, qualifying widower, head of household, or married filing separately, the adjusted gross income must not exceed $100,000. In addition, if you have an outstanding of more than $50,000, you will not be qualified to receive a waiver.
2. IRS Installment Payment Plan
The IRS Installment Agreement provision allows taxpayers to pay their income taxes, in installments, in a scenario wherein the taxpayer is unable to pay in full. It also gives taxpayers more time to pay. The threshold for the maximum amount of debt against which an installment plan can be prepared has now gone up from $25,000 to $50,000, with the maximum term for the repayment of installments being 6 years. Though you need to pay less in penalties, the interest will continue to accrue on your outstanding dues.
Taxpayers can set up an installment agreement with IRS by using the Online Payment Agreement (www.irs.gov) without any intervention of an IRS agent. It is, however, essential that they agree to pay the installments through a direct debit mode.
3. Offer in Compromise (OIC) IRS Settlement
The Offer in Compromise provision allows financially struggling taxpayers to settle their outstanding income taxes for less than what they actually owe to the IRS. After the expansion of “Fresh Start” initiative, it has become easier for taxpayers to qualify for an Offer in Compromise settlement, as the IRS has relaxed the qualification standards, and therefore, more people are now eligible to settle with the IRS for less.
USE AN EXPERIENCED IRS TAX ATTORNEY
To apply for an Offer in Compromise (OIC) settlement, the taxpayer needs to file Form 433-A (OIC) or Form 433-B (OIC), and deposit a non-refundable application fee of $186. If, however, the taxpayer qualifies under the Low Income Certification guidelines, they would not have to pay the application fee. In addition to the form and application fee, the taxpayer may also be asked to pay the first month’s installment or 20 percent of the settlement amount, at the time of filing.