Five Reasons the IRS Abates Penalties

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Receiving a penalty from the IRS can be devastating, especially when you don’t have the means to repay it on time. A penalty makes it harder to clear your outstanding taxes since it attracts further penalties and interest until you repay the debt fully. However, it is possible to apply for and get relief/abatement from a tax penalty if you show that you made an effort to comply but could not do this because of circumstances you could not control. Once you get the notice of penalty, check all the details to ensure they are correct and see what you can resolve. You can receive penalty relief for the following tax issues:
  • Failure to pay outstanding taxes on time
  • Failure to file tax returns on time
  • Failure to deposit specific taxes according to requirements
  • Other applicable penalties from the above
After assessing the notice, you (or a tax professional acting on your behalf) can submit a written request seeking penalty abatement. This article discusses the main reasons which IRS accepts for penalty abatement.

Reasonable Cause

If you have reasonable cause for not paying, filing or depositing on time, your application must demonstrate the reasons for the delay/non-payment. Some acceptable reasons include:
  • Travelling abroad/out of the country
  • Being incarcerated
  • Being seriously ill/dealing with the serious illness of a close family member
  • Death of an immediate family member
  • Destruction or theft leading to loss of documents
Depending on your reason above, you should attach proof in the form of insurance claims, doctors’ reports and hospital records, a death certificate, or pictures of floods/hurricanes leading to the destruction of documents.  The IRS evaluates whether the person acted prudently according to the circumstances but could not because of circumstances beyond their control. They will also check whether the taxpayer could have foreseen the event causing non-compliance and what steps they could have taken to ensure compliance.

Statutory Exceptions

Congress may provide statutory exceptions, giving taxpayers relief from tax penalties after major disasters like fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods. 

Administrative Relief

Qualified taxpayers can receive an administrative waiver called First Time Abatement (FTA) for penalties for failing to file, pay, or deposit taxes. Eligible taxpayers are those who show all of the following:
  • The taxpayer filed all returns or extensions
  • The taxpayer has paid or made arrangements to pay all outstanding taxes
  • The taxpayer was not required to file returns or was not assessed for penalties for three tax years before the year attracting the penalty

Correcting IRS Errors

The IRS must abate any penalties assessed because of an error in the written advice given by an IRS officer or employee in their official capacity. Where appropriate, the IRS may also consider abatement if the taxpayer shows they relied on an IRS officer’s oral advice. The taxpayer must prove that they exercised ordinary prudence and business care considering their situation, the advice rendered and the penalty. They will also consider the taxpayer’s filing and payment history and whether they received the correct information in written format.

Relying on a Tax Advisor

A taxpayer may receive limited penalty abatement for relying on a tax advisor – but this cannot be the only reason given. If there is a failure to file, pay, or deposit taxes, the taxpayer is still held liable even if he/she relied on a tax advisor. Only accuracy-based penalties based on reasonable cause may be abated. 

Get Professional Tax Liability Advice from Finishline Tax Solutions

If you have received a notice of tax penalty from the IRS, you may be able to get penalty abatement. There is no guarantee of abatement even when you have reasonable cause, but you can improve your chances by getting Finishline tax professionals to help you apply for an abatement. Even if the abatement is rejected initially, our professionals can help you to file an appeal, during which the IRS agent will assess the totality of your circumstance.  Contact Finishline Tax solutions today to fix your taxes once and for all.

Offer in Compromise – Is this a good tax relief strategy?

An Offer in Compromise (OIC) is a helpful tax relief strategy since, if successful, it clears your outstanding tax debt completely. Most other tax relief options have an outstanding amount that may continue to accrue penalties and interest. However, before the IRS accepts your OIC application, you must go through various steps that include submitting extensive documentation to support your claim. The IRS determines whether or not your application will be accepted, but you can improve your chances by submitting a compelling application. In this article, learn how Offer in Compromise works as a tax relief solution and how our tax professionals can help you make your application.

What Are Offers in Compromise?

An Offer in Compromise (OIC) is an effective method to eliminate your tax debt. It is a federal program where the taxpayer settles the outstanding debt for cents to every dollar owed. Low-income families can pay their debt for considerably less than they owe. OIC is open to all income levels and ages, but the IRS does not accept all applications. Their acceptance rate changes from year to year, but it has accepted 25-45% of applications in the last few years.

Eligibility for Offers in Compromise

Several strict pre-qualifiers make a taxpayer eligible for tax settlement through OIC. First, the IRS looks at your reason for requesting OIC tax settlement, and they only consider applications where:
  • It is not certain that the IRS correctly assessed your outstanding taxes
  • It is not certain that the IRS will be able to recover the full amount, e.g. if you owe more than your assets and income
  • Paying off your tax debt in full will cause the taxpayer undue economic hardship – called effective tax administration
For reasons 2 and 3 above, the IRS also considers the following:
  • Whether you can pay and how much you may be able to pay
  • Your current income
  • Your current assets
  • Your current expenses
The IRS will generally accept OIC that meets the maximum amount you can pay within a reasonable period. You are ineligible for OIC settlement, however, if:
  • You have ongoing bankruptcy proceedings
  • You have not been paying your required installments/payments
  • You have not filed your federal tax returns
  • If self-employed with employees, you have not submitted the requisite federal tax deposits
Generally, the IRS only accepts offers in compromise greater than or equal to a tax liability’s collection potential.

How to Submit an Offer in Compromise

The smallest offer the IRS accepts as OIC depends on your financial ability. Businesses use form 433-B to reveal their financial state, while self-employed or employed wage-earners should use Form 433-A. You should reveal the following:
  • Income and expenses
  • If you declared bankruptcy
  • Whether you own a safe deposit box and its contents
  • If you have benefited from an estate, trust, or life insurance policy and its details
  • Any bank account balances, investments, available credit, and cash life insurance policies
  • Any tangible and intangible assets
College or private school expenses and charitable and voluntary retirement contributions are not allowable expenses. Once you have these details, it’s important to get a tax professional to help you assess the minimum offer value. Apart from the offer, you must submit several forms, including collection information statements, the application fee, and proof of payment of the first instalment of your offer. If you wish to pay a lump sum, the first payment should be at least 20 percent of the total offer. If the IRS accepts your OIC, you must pay the remaining amount in no more than five payments.

Get Help with Your Offer in Compromise at Finishline Tax Solutions

You can use the IRS OIC pre-qualifier tool to check whether you are eligible for OIC. However, note that eligibility does not translate to acceptance. For example, if you can pay your outstanding taxes through an instalment agreement, you don’t qualify for an OIC tax settlement. There are many steps to filing an OIC application and even appealing upon rejection. Our Finishline Tax professionals can help you with these steps to maximize your chances of a favorable outcome. Contact us today to get started.

Finding the Best Tax Debt Relief Solution

 

When you find yourself owing back taxes, you may be at a loss for how to proceed. Unfortunately, many taxpayers don’t know the tax relief options open to them until they face various tax debts as a result of IRS audits, fines, penalties, levies, or liens, as well as unpaid payroll taxes and IRS wage garnishment.

Regardless of your tax challenge, there are five primary methods to get tax relief when you owe back taxes. You may be able to take advantage of just one or two of these solutions according to your specific circumstances.  

#1 Offer in Compromise (OIC)

An Offer in Compromise is an agreement between the IRS and a taxpayer where the latter pays less than the outstanding taxes they owe. The IRS does not accept all applications for Offers in Compromise - the current success rate is only 25 percent. Still, if OIC is ideal for you, we can help you to settle the debt once and for all to avoid further accrual of penalties and interest on the tax debt.

#2 Penalty Abatement

You can apply for penalty abatement when the IRS tacks an automatic penalty onto your outstanding taxes without considering your situation/reason for nonpayment. A tax relief professional can help you to file ‘reasonable cause’, which is written proof explaining the reason for nonpayment. If successful, you will get the penalties removed (or refunded if paid) and have more time to pay your outstanding taxes.

#3 Installment Agreement

Installment agreements get the best reception from the IRS since the taxpayer undertakes to pay the debt in full. You can choose to pay your outstanding taxes in manageable instalments over some time if you cannot afford to pay at once. You can also seek an extension on an existing installment agreement should your financial situation deteriorate.

However, note that you must apply and meet the requirements before IRS approves your installment agreement. Further, penalties and interest will continue to accrue on the outstanding amount until you have paid in full. 

#4 Currently Non-Collectible (CNC)

If you cannot pay your back taxes because your financial situation has deteriorated (e.g. if you lost your job), you can apply for a Currently Non Collectible status. CNC applications can be approved if you show that your total income is less than the allowable living expenses according to federal standards

If your application is approved, the IRS will grant you a reprieve from usual recovery and collection tactics. After 1-2 years, they will reassess your financial situation to determine whether you can resume payments. Also, you are required to notify the IRS if your financial situation improves. Note that penalties and interest continue to accrue while your account is in CNC status.

#5 Tax Audit Appeal

You can contest a tax audit if you feel that the IRS-recommended audit is inappropriate or incorrect. Disputed IRS audits are often settled when you initiate an appeal. Take advantage of the fact that the IRS prefers to resolve such issues because it is expensive, and they lose time and risk judgement against them. You need a tax professional who is familiar with the audit process to negotiate on your behalf.

#6 Innocent Spouse Relief

One spouse can apply for relief from tax liability or penalties for taxes filed jointly. However, you must prove that you were unaware of the understated income or taxes when you signed the tax return. A professional can help you to assess whether this avenue is right for you.

Conclusion

Regardless of the tax relief solution you choose, it is critical to use a reputable and experienced tax relief company. Check their reviews on independent review sites like the Better Business Bureau or get referrals from trusted people in your networks.

The most important thing to remember is that you’re looking for a solution that minimizes or reduces the penalties and interests on outstanding taxes to the barest minimum. That’s what a tax professional can help you to assess according to your particular circumstances.

 

What You Need to Know About IRS Hardship

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Not every one that owes back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can make full payments in one fell swoop. The IRS has many avenues to pay back taxes in installments, but some people are still unable to clear their tax debt. If your current financial situation makes it difficult/impossible to pay back taxes and meet your daily living expenses, there are other avenues to explore. It is possible to apply for the IRS Hardship Program, which grants you temporary reprieve from settling your tax debt relief. Learn more about the IRS Hardship Program in this article.


What Is the IRS Hardship Program?


As mentioned, this program gives taxpayers temporary reprieve on back taxes they owe by placing their account in CNC status (Currently Non-Collectible). According to IRS Policy 5-71, your tax liability is considered CNC if you can show that paying the taxes will create hardship. If you have difficulty repaying back taxes, it may be better to pursue an Offer in Compromise (or settlement) before seeking CNC status. The OIC status allows you to pay a fraction of the debt (which you suggest according to your financial ability) for the liability to be cleared. Meanwhile, the CNC status is temporary; if your financial situation gets better, you will resume payment at a later date. To apply for CNC status, the IRS requires that you fill one of three forms: Form 433A for individuals, Form 433F for self-employed individuals, and Form 433B for C corporations, S corporations, and partnerships looking for hardship status.


Assessing Financial Health for IRS Hardship Applicants


When you apply for the Hardship Program, the IRS assesses the application to determine whether you qualify for CNC status. Apart from living expenses, the IRS considers the following:

  • Number, age, and health status of dependents where applicable
  • Your employment status and age
  • Health status of close family members
  • Cost of living in your locale
  • Any extraordinary expenses

They will assess your financial health, checking whether you are able to borrow against assets you own, all your income sources, or inability to work harder because of a medical condition. You should be able to show that:

  • You lost your job and are/aren’t receiving unemployment benefits
  • Your income has declined
  • You have been looking for a job with no success
  • You were forced to wind up your business
  • You lost your home in foreclosure or sold it at a loss
  • Your employer went out of business

Protections of the IRS Hardship Status


During IRS Hardship, the IRS cannot seek repayment of your tax liability, whether through wage garnishment or seizure of property or assets. However, note that the tax liability is not forgiven, and penalties and interest on the loan continue to accrue. Every year, the IRS sends a bill showing the amount owed. You will pay that amount once the Hardship status is lifted. The CNC status can be held for ten years, and the IRS reviews your income/financial status every two years. They will lift the status if they believe you can now support yourself and dependents. At this point, you must resume payment. However, you can also pay down your debt if you have extra money while under CNC status. Making payments this way doesn’t affect your CNC status until the next scheduled review.


Need to Handle Your Tax Liability? Look for Tax Professionals


When you are unable to pay your tax liability, it can be difficult to decide the next steps to take. No two people have the same financial situation, which is where tax professionals come in. At Finishline Tax Solutions, we can represent your best interests to apply for tax relief and negotiate on your behalf with the IRS. Our job is to determine the best solution and even file an Appeal if your request for CNC status is denied. We can also help you to prepare and file your taxes in time.


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IRS Hardship Program: How can it help you?

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Are you behind on your taxes, and there is no way you can pay them off? Don’t worry! The IRS has got your covered. You might think that the IRS is the last place where you would seek help during a monetary crisis. However, the IRS offers a number of tax relief programs for taxpayers who are going through extreme economic hardship. One such option is the IRS hardship program.

Under the IRS hardship program, a person might qualify for the ‘Currently Not Collectible’ status. Once you get this status, the IRS cannot take your property or paycheck for fulfilling the outstanding tax debt. Learn more about the IRS hardship programs from experienced tax resolution service providers. These professional experts can also help you get a payment plan with the IRS.

Reasons for which you can get the CNC status

There are a number of reasons for which you can get the CNC status through the IRS hardship program. The basic stipulation is that a person is qualified for the CNC status if the collection of the debt would create a financial crisis for them where they are not able to pay essential living expenses. However, you would have to prove your hardship to the IRS. For this, you will be submitting financial information using Form 433A/433F or Form 433B - the former is for self-employed or individual taxpayers while the latter is for partnerships and corporations. Through the Collection Information Statement and the supporting documents, the IRS will get the following information:

  • Everything you own, including bank accounts, real estate properties, investment portfolios, cars, motorcycles, trucks, boats, life insurance, retirement savings, etc.
  • Expense statements of the last 3 months
  • Income statements for the last 3 months
  • The market value of every asset you have
  • A three-month average of expenses and income on the basis of category

Under the IRS Hardship Program, the taxpayers also need to disclose sensitive financial information. This is why some taxpayers opt for an online payment agreement. The online payment agreements do not only have less disclosure but are also easier to qualify in comparison to the IRS Hardship Program.

Who is qualified for the IRS Hardship Program?

Once you have been declared CNC under the IRS Hardship Program, no collection actions will be taken against you for collecting the tax debt. These collection actions include:

  • Tax Lien - Legal claim by the government on your property, including personal, real asset, and financial assets.
  • Tax Levy - Selling away your property for settling the outstanding debt.
  • Garnished wages - Collecting a portion of your income until the debt is settled off.

All the rules of the IRS Hardship Program are applicable for 10 years which is also the duration the federal agency has for collecting back taxes. After 10 years, the statute of limitations is enforced. Every two years after declaring the CNC status, the IRS will be reviewing your information. They do this to check if you still are eligible for the IRS Hardship program. If they find that you are financially capable of paying your tax debt, they will revoke the IRS Hardship program and remove your CNC status.

When you are in the IRS Hardship Program, the government won’t be seizing your property, wiping your account, or taking away your paycheck. But, this doesn’t mean that you are off the hook. The CNC status just stops the collection actions. The interests and penalties will still accrue on your debt. Here are some of the penalties you will be facing for not paying your taxes and late filing.

Penalties you will be facing for not paying your taxes and late filing
Failure to File

If you don’t file your returns by 15th April, the return due date or the extended date you receive after filing for an extension, you will be charged 5% of the unpaid tax every month for up to 5 months.
Failure to Pay

Not paying the taxes by the due date or the extended date can result in a penalty of 5% of the unpaid tax. In case of an approved installment period, you will be charged 0.25% of the debt. If you pay within 10 days after receiving the Notice of Intent to Levy, a penalty of 1% of the tax debt will be charged. For every month you don't pay the taxes, there will be a recurrent charge until the penalty reaches 25% of the debt or you pay off the debt.

Even if your account is currently under the IRS Hardship program, it doesn’t mean that your status won’t roll over automatically. The IRS considers your eligibility for the program separately. If possible, you should pay the new taxes immediately. It won’t have any effect on your CNC status from the past years.

However, if you are not able to pay the new taxes also, you can request CNC status under the IRS Hardship Program for that year as well. With each year, it will become increasingly difficult to get that status. Also, the IRS will penalize you, and in the end, you might be forced to pay the debt using alternative payment methods like Installment Agreement or Offer in Compromise. If you are eligible for the IRS Hardship program, it is best that you hire professional experts. They will be advocating on your behalf and help you get the best tax relief option available.

Frequently Asked Questions About IRS Hardship Program

A person qualifies for an IRS Hardship if

 

➢ Their annual salary is less than $84,000

➢ They have very little or no money left after paying for living expenses

➢ The IRS definition of basic living expenses can be divided into four expense categories

  • Housing and utilities
  • Transportation
  • Medical expenses (out-of-pocket)
  • Food, personal care products, clothing, and housekeeping supplies

Begin the process of filing for financial hardship by filling out the appropriate forms (you will find related information on the IRS website). Taxpayers filing for a personal obligation are required to fill out and send in Form 433-A. Individuals requesting business tax debt must fill out and send in Form 433-B. 

Mail copies of your monthly bills for utilities, food, personal expenses, mortgage or rent, medical bills with your IRS form. 

The IRS would agree that you have financial hardship if you prove that you cannot or can barely meet your living expenses, and paying your taxes would create an unfair financial hardship. If you qualify, the IRS will not seize your property or attach your bank account while you have a hardship status. However, you will still owe back taxes.