Tag Archives: IRS Currently Not Collectible

10 Options For Solving Your IRS Debt

When it comes to settling your tax debt, there are 10 options “commonly” employed by resolution professionals (such as ourselves) or the individual taxpayer (see full explanations below):

»          Full pay the tax owed
»          File unfiled returns to replace Substitute for Returns (SFR’s)
»          Dispute the tax on technical grounds
»          Currently Not Collectable
»          Installment Agreements
»          Offers In Compromise
»          Penalty Abatement
»          Discharging taxes in bankruptcy
»          Innocent Spouse relief
»          Expiration of the Collection Statute

OPTION ONE – Full pay the tax owed
While seldom a popular option, sometimes the taxpayer does have the ability to pay the tax outright or borrow against an existing asset e.g. refinance a home mortgage or take out a home equity loan.

Surprisingly, in this situation, this option is usually the least costly of viable options available to the taxpayer. The reason for this is two-fold:
»         The taxpayer’s equity in assets will usually disqualify the taxpayer from benefiting from options which grant debt forgiveness.
»         Until the tax debt is paid in its entirety, it will continue to accrue additional penalties and interest.

OPTION TWO – Filing unfiled tax returns and replacing Substitute for Returns
When resolving a tax problem, it is relatively common to find that the taxpayer has back tax returns which have not been filed. There are three reasons why it is necessary to file the required back tax returns and get the taxpayer “Current” so to speak:
»         Failure to file tax returns may be construed as a criminal act by the IRS and can be punishable by one year in jail for each year not filed. Filing unfiled returns brings the taxpayer “Current”
»          Filing unfiled returns to replace “Substitute for Returns” may lower the tax liability owed and the associated interest and penalties
»          A settlement cannot be negotiated with the IRS until the taxpayer becomes “Current”

OPTION THREE – Dispute the tax on technical grounds
If there is a technical basis to dispute the amount of tax owed, there are a number of paths to consider, including:
»         Filing an amended return if the statute of limitations to file has not expired
»         Filing an Offer In Compromise – Doubt as to Liability

OPTION FOUR – Currently Not Collectable Status
If a taxpayer does not have positive cash flow above the level to pay their necessary living expenses or have equity in assets to liquidate, the taxpayer may qualify for Currently Not Collectable Status (CNC). This is most commonly seen when the tax payer is unemployed or underemployed. In this situation, the IRS places a temporary hold on the collection of the tax owed until the taxpayer’s financial situation improves. If over a longer period of time, the tax payer’s financial situation does not improve, the taxpayer may then become a viable Offer In Compromise candidate.

OPTION FIVE – Installment Agreements
In most cases, the IRS will accept some type of payment arrangement for past due taxes. In order to qualify for a payment plan the taxpayer must meet set criteria. They include:
»          The taxpayer must be current- all returns must be filed
»          Disclose all assets owned
»          The difference between the taxpayer’s monthly income and allowable monthly expenses will be the amount that the IRS will request that the taxpayer pay on a monthly basis
»          Monthly payments will continue until the taxes owed are paid in full

OPTION SIX – Offers In Compromise
The IRS Offer in Compromise program provides taxpayers that owe the IRS more than they could ever afford to pay, the opportunity to pay a small amount as a full and final settlement.

»          This program also allows taxpayers that do not agree that they owe the tax or feel that the tax has been incorrectly calculated, a chance to file an Offer in Compromise and have their tax liabilities reconsidered.
»          The Offer in Compromise program allows taxpayers to get a fresh start.
»          All back tax liabilities are settled with the amount of the Offer In Compromise.
»          All federal tax liens are released upon IRS acceptance of an Offer In Compromise and payment of the amount offered.

An Offer in Compromise filed based on the taxpayers inability to pay the IRS looks at the taxpayer’s current financial position and considers the taxpayers ability to pay as well as the taxpayers equity in assets. Based on these factors, an Offer amount is determined.

»          Taxpayers can compromise all types of IRS taxes, penalties and interest.
»          Even payroll taxes can be compromised.

If the taxpayer qualifies for the Offer In Compromise program, they may be able save thousands of dollars in taxes, penalties and interest.

OPTION SEVEN – Penalty Abatement
In most cases, penalties make up 10-30% of the total tax obligation. A penalty abatement request can eliminate some or all penalties if the taxpayer has reasonable cause for not paying the tax on time or paying the appropriate amount of tax.

Reasonable cause includes:
»         Prolonged unemployment
»         Business failure
»         Major illness
»         Incorrect accounting advice
»         Incorrect advice from the IRS

To prevail in a penalty abatement request, as in most tax matters, the burden rests with the taxpayer to be able to adequately document the reasonable cause.

OPTION EIGHT – Discharging Taxes in Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy can discharge federal income taxes if certain requirements are met. However this depends upon both the type of bankruptcy and the type of tax owed.

Chapter 7 is the chapter of bankruptcy law that provides for the liquidation of non-exempt assets and the discharge of dischargeable debts. Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 provide for repayment of debt in whole or in part.

To discharge taxes in bankruptcy, a number of criteria must be met including:
»         36 months have expired from the tax return due date
»         24 months have expired from the date the tax was assessed
»         240 days have passed since the tax was assessed and filing bankruptcy
»         All tax returns must have been filed

OPTION NINE – Innocent Spouse relief
Sometimes a taxpayer will find themselves in trouble with the IRS because of their spouse’s or Ex-spouse’s actions. The IRS realizes that these situations do in fact occur.

In order to help taxpayers that have tax problems which are due to the actions of their spouse, the IRS has developed guidelines for taxpayers to qualify as an innocent spouse. If a taxpayer can prove they meet these guidelines, then the innocent taxpayer may not have to pay some or all the taxes caused by their spouse or ex-spouse.

OPTION TEN – Expiration of the Collection Statute
The IRS has 10 years from the date of assessment (usually close to the filing date) to collect all taxes, penalties and interest from the taxpayer. The taxpayer does not owe the tax after the 10-year date has passed.

Listed below are some of the most common exceptions to this rule:
»          If the taxpayer agrees in writing to allow the IRS more time to collect the tax
»          If the taxpayer files bankruptcy during the 10 year period
»          If the taxpayer files an Offer In Compromise.

Tax Debt and 10 Year Statute of Limitations

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Many taxpayers, and some practitioners, are unaware that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by law only has 10 years’ time to collect a tax debt.  This is referred to as the statute of limitations or in IRS speak, the Collection Statute Expiration Date or CSED for short. This post will talk about what the CSED is, how to obtain it, what can change its date and how to stop paying taxes once it expires.

How Long Can the IRS Collect a Debt?
Per Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 6502, the limit on the IRS’ ability to collect a debt is 10 years. However, as we discuss below, most of the “popular” legal methods used to deal with tax debt also stop the CSED “clock” from running. In some cases it actually makes more sense for the taxpayer to just let the clock run.

When Does the Clock Start?
The 10-year period begins to run with the date of the “assessment” of the tax, not the tax year for which taxes are due. For example, if a return for 2012 is not filed until 2014 and the tax is assessed in 2014, the 10-year period begins to run in 2014 and expires in 2024.

The date of assessment is the date the tax liability is assessed on a particular form at an IRS Service Center. When the applicable form is signed by an IRS official, the 10-year period for that tax liability starts to run. When interest and late payment penalties (as well as other penalties) related to that tax year are tacked onto the underlying tax debt, they too must be collected within the same 10-year period.

If you never filed a tax return, but the IRS filed one for you (i.e. using a Substitute for Return or SFR), then the statute of limitations began to run whenever that assessment was processed by the IRS on your behalf.

How Can I Find Out My CSED?
To determine when the CSED began for a particular liability, the best approach is to obtain a transcript of the taxpayer´s IRS account. Transcripts should exist for each tax year and provide basic information such as the date of assessment, date of filing, and tax liability.

Taxpayers can request account transcripts on their own behalf by filing IRS Form 4506-T or requesting them online.  You can then attempt to analyze the data, perform the necessary calculations and hope you arrive at the correct answer.

Another method of calculating the CSED is to look at the “Date of Assessment” for a particular tax period if you have received IRS Form 668 (Y)(c) – Notice of Federal Tax Lien.  You would then calculate out approximately 10 years from this date to see when the CSED expires.

My Tax Debt Is Older Than 10 Years But The CSED Hasn’t Elapsed. Why?
While the IRS only has ten years to collect a debt, there are certain factors that can extend or pause the CSED. This is known as “tolling the statute of limitations.” Events that stop or “toll” the statute of limitations include:

  • Filing Certain Appeals – in most cases, the statute also doesn’t run the entire time an IRS Appeal is pending.
  • Filing an Offer in Compromise (OIC) – the statute of limitations does not run the entire time your Offer is under review, including any Appeals that you exercise, plus an additional 30 days.
  • Filing a Lawsuit Against the IRS – the statute of limitations does not run while litigation against the IRS is pending.
  • Filing Bankruptcy – the statute of limitations does not run the entire time you are under the protection of the bankruptcy courts or for the six months following the discharge or dismissal of the bankruptcy.

If you exercised any of these options in the past, there was probably a period of time when the statute was not running.  Said another way, during any time period in which the IRS is legally unable to pursue you for collection of the debt, the statute of limitations is not running.  For a complete list of tolling events and the associated time, check out IRS Publication 594 and look at “How Long We Have To Collect Taxes.”

Will the IRS Notify Me Once the CSED Elapses?
No, the IRS is not required to notify you once the debt has expired.  However, they are not legally allowed to pursue collection of the debt.  Thus, you will usually just stop hearing from them if your debt has expired.

My CSED Has Elapsed – Now What?
If the CSED has elapsed, congratulations! All that remains is cleaning up the chaos that your tax problem left in your life. You will need to ensure that a TC 608 credit to zero out the debt has been entered into the IRS system. You should also ensure that a Release of Federal Tax Lien is filed so that you can begin the process of repairing your credit.

My CSED Has Not Elapsed – Now What?
If your CSED hasn’t elapsed, but it is getting close, the best thing to do might be to get a plan in place with the IRS to ensure you’re protected from aggressive collection action.  This may include entering into a monthly payment plan or negotiating for your account to be placed into currently not collectible status (a “temporarily” status where you aren’t required to pay the IRS).

Do YOU Need Help With Your IRS Debt?
While you could go through the hassle of calculating your CSED, do you really want to?  For a flat $50 fee, and us filing a few forms with the IRS (with your consent), we’ll look at however many years you want to analyze, and provide you with a comprehensive report that will include:

  • Total tax assessment, penalty, interest and accrual amounts for each year (so you know how much you really owe)
  • CSED calculations for each year requested
  • Tolling events (if any) and the days your CSED has been extended
  • All IRS notices sent/received for each year
  • IRS account activity by year
  • And much, much more (we promise)

Call us at (773) 239-8850 or click our email address at the bottom of this screen to get started.

By the way, this post (the one you’r reading) is by far the most viewed on our site.  Why?  Because many people have tax issues that they want to resolve.  If you have old tax returns that need to be filed or want to learn how a professional can help you with your situation, why not visit our sister site File Old Tax Returns?  You might be surprised to learn that we may be able to help you out for less than you are thinking.  Plus, hear some valuable information on your taxpayer rights from the IRS Commissioner himself!

How To Get IRS Currently Not Collectible Status

If you are facing IRS debt issues, a great tool for getting them momentarily off your back is a status known as Currently Not Collectible (CNC).   The IRS recognizes that you may be in a financial condition that renders you unable to pay anything on your taxes.  When we represent taxpayers that are either insolvent or are having major cash flow issues, the Currently Not Collectible Status is the option that we attempt to obtain most often.

If you have negligible assets (e.g. bank accounts, home, cars) that the IRS can seize, and you have no income beyond what is absolutely necessary for you to live, the IRS may determine that your liability is currently uncollectible.  CNC status defers collection action under the undue hardship rule.  If you are one of these uncollectible cases, the Revenue Officer assigned to your case will remove your case from active inventory until your financial condition improves.  CNC status is generally maintained for about one year. Keep in mind that if you are in CNC status, penalties and interest will continue to accrue on your tax liabilities.

There are many reasons the IRS may consider your case as uncollectible.  These include:

  1. The creation of undo hardship for you, leaving you unable to meet necessary living expenses
  2. The inability to locate any of your assets
  3. The inability to contact you
  4. You die with no significant estate left behind
  5. Bankruptcy or suspension of business activities with no remaining assets
  6. Special circumstances such as tax accounts of military personnel serving in a combat zone

Before closing your case for the reason of undue hardship, we can guarantee that the IRS will request a financial statement from you so that they can review your finances.  The review is similar to the review for an Installment Agreement request; both of which are similar to a mortgage application.  You will be required to provide financial documentation such as bank statements, copies of mortgage statements, car payments, pay stubs, etc.  If your assets are negligible and your net disposable income is negligible, you’ll most likely to be able to obtain CNC status.

The IRS will periodically re-examine your finances to see if your financial condition has improved to the point that some payment can be demanded.  This financial review will occur about once a year and you must then complete a new financial statement.  The IRS may question you by phone or in person about your updated financial information or they may simply send you the form and request that you return it by mail.

As with all information you give the IRS, make sure that what you say is absolutely truthful.  The IRS may also monitor your financial condition by computerized review of your tax returns.  For example, the IRS computers may flag your return if your reported gross income exceeds some pre-established amount.  Remember, the IRS only has 10 years from the date of assessment to collect delinquent taxes; once the statute expires, so does your liability.

Millions of Americans have remained in CNC for years and completely avoided having to pay their back taxes.  Obviously, these folks could not title assets in their own name or have significant income available for IRS levy.  Still, many of these uncollectible cases enjoyed relatively comfortable lifestyles.  If you maintain no assets in your own name, you have a small income, and expect your financial situation to continue as it currently stands, then remaining in CNC status may be your most practical remedy.

However, if you do not intend on remaining uncollectible until the statute of limitations expires or you don’t want the tax liability hanging over your head, then you may want to consider an Offer in Compromise while your financial situation isn’t so great.

Do YOU Need Help With Your IRS Debt?
This post (the one you’r reading) is one of the most viewed on our site.  Why?  Because many people have tax issues that they want to resolve.  If you have old tax returns that need to be filed or want to learn how a professional can help you with your situation, why not visit our sister site File Old Tax Returns?  You might be surprised to learn that we may be able to help you out for less than you are thinking.  Plus, hear some valuable information on your taxpayer rights from the IRS Commissioner himself!