Tax Blog

What Is an “Offer In Compromise”?

Written on: January 7th, 2016

If you have already spoken with an attorney and determined that bankruptcy will not discharge all of your tax debt, and an installment agreement is not a feasible way to satisfy your remaining tax debt, then you will want to try to make an Offer In Compromise to the IRS.

What Is an “Offer In Compromise”

An offer in compromise is an agreement between you (the taxpayer) and the IRS that settles a tax debt for less than the amount owed.  Like bankruptcy, it gives the eligible taxpayer a chance to satisfy their tax debt and get a “fresh start” with respect to the tax debt.

Why Would the IRS Accept Less than What Is Owed?

When a troubled taxpayer prioritizes between buying food, paying the mortgage or paying taxes – taxes often got the short shrift.   Nonetheless, that tax debt continues and continues to grow.

Three tax consequences often accompany an economic downturn and rapid changes in asset ownership and/or income, and these consequences also form the bases for the IRS accepting an offer in compromise:

  1. Doubt as to collectability
  2. Doubt as to liability
  3. Effective tax administration

Doubt as to Collectability:  If taxpayer’s assets and income are less than the full amount of the tax liability, then the IRS has doubt as to collect-ability, and is authorized to negotiate and accept an offer in.

Doubt as to Liability:  Rapid economic change comes with chaos, and tracking income and tax liability across a shifting economic landscape is not easily accomplished.  As a result, a genuine doubt as to tax liability can result.   Here again, the IRS is authorized to investigate and accept an offer in compromise when there is doubt as to liability.

Effective Tax Administration:  This last basis for accepting an offer in compromise takes more of a public policy perspective on the tax administration process, and determines whether the taxpayer would suffer “economic hardship” or whether accepting a compromise would promote effective tax administration where the taxpayer provides a “compelling public policy or equity consideration” to support such compromise.

“Economic hardship” is a legitimate basis for an offer in compromise where the taxpayer can show that although full collection of tax debt could be achieved, it would cause the taxpayer “economic hardship” as specified in the Treasury regulations.

“Compelling public policy or equity considerations” require the taxpayer to demonstrate exceptional circumstances which render the collection of the full tax liability as an act that undermines the public confidence that the tax laws are being administered in a fair and equitable manner.

These are the reasons why the IRS might accept an offer in compromise, but a taxpayer must do his or her due diligence before being eligible to submit such an offer.

Are you eligible to submit an offer in compromise?

If you wish to submit your offer in compromise, you must first:

  1. File all tax returns you are legally required to file;
  2. Make all required estimated payments for the current year; and
  3. Make all required federal tax deposits for the current quarter if you are a business owner with employees.

Note – If you are in an open bankruptcy case, then you are not eligible to submit an offer in compromise.  You must first address the pre-petition tax debt through the bankruptcy case, and thereafter address any outstanding tax debt once the bankruptcy case closes.

It is important to be aware of this partial list of concerns when submitting an offer:

  1. Penalties and interest will continue to accrue during the offer evaluation process.
  2. Besides the continuing penalties and interest, the IRS can also file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien during the Offer investigation; however, unless a jeopardy situation exists, a request for a Tax Lien will not usually be made until after the final determination has been rendered.
  3. You cannot make an offer that is only for a tax year or tax period that has not been assessed.
  4. Any tax refunds or money from a levy served prior to you submitting an offer, will be applied to the tax liability.
  5. Any payments made with an offer or during the course of the offer investigation will be applied to your tax liability, whether the offer is accepted or not.
  6. If your offer is accepted, you must continue to file and pay your future tax obligations as they become due for the next 5 years.  If you fail to do so, your offer may be defaulted and the compromised tax debts, including penalties and interest will be reinstated.

Making the Offer:

There is an application fee of $150 required when submitting your offer.  However, this fee can be waived for individuals meeting the Low Income Certification guidelines.  If the fee is not waived, it will not be returned to the taxpayer, but will be applied to the tax liability.

The Offer in Compromise can be made in a couple different ways:

  1. Lump Sum Cash:  requires that 20% of the total offer amount be paid at the same time the offer is submitted.  The remainder will be paid within 24 months in accordance with the offer terms.
  2. Periodic Payment:  requires that the taxpayer make an initial payment with the offer, and then make continuous payments on the remaining balance over a period of not more than 24 months in accordance with the proposed terms of the offer.

This is a good stopping point.  The general benefits and considerations of the Offer In Compromise have been laid out.  But making an offer in compromise is a complicated undertaking, and there are IRS forms to be completed and supporting documents to be gathered.  You should become very familiar with the IRS website or obtain the services of a tax professional when getting ready to make an offer in compromise; but be leery of fly-by-night tax outfits.  Obtaining the services of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney is a smart choice.

Personal Income Tax Debt: Can Bankruptcy Help?

Written on: December 17th, 2015

No creditor knocks quite as loudly as the Internal Revenue Service when they come to collect.  The consequences of not timely paying your personal  income tax debt can result in the seizure of your personal property, levying of your bank accounts, garnishment of your wages , and/or foreclosure of real property.

You may be considering bankruptcy as a way to discharge your personal income tax liability, but before you rely too heavily on bankruptcy to discharge that tax debt completely, you need to ask yourself some important questions to determine what portion of your tax debt can be discharged.

Rather than listing what tax debt is dischargeable, it is more efficient to identify which income tax debt is not dischargeable:

  1. Priority income tax debt is not dischargeable.  Several types of this non-dischargeable tax is identified in bankruptcy code section 507(a)(8)(A).  Priority status of tax debt often relies heavily on timing, and includes:
  • Taxes for which a return, if required, is last due, including extensions, on a date more than 3 years before the date that the bankruptcy case was filed.For example,  if Mary Smith filed bankruptcy on July 4, 2015 and she listed tax debt for tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012.  If no tax filing extensions were obtained, then the 2010 and 2011 tax debts would be dischargeable in Mary’s bankruptcy case because those tax returns were due by April 15 of the following year: i.e.  2010 tax return due by April 15, 2011 and 2011 tax return due by April 15, 2012.  Because April 15, 2012 is the latest date that either of these returns was due,  and that date is more than 3 years before the date that the bankruptcy case was filed, then the 2010 and 2011 tax debt is dischargeble.  

Now consider that Mary received an extension until October 2012 to file her 2011 tax return.  As a result of the extension, the last date the 2011 return is due is less  than 3 years from the filing date of the bankruptcy case. Consequently, the 2011 income tax debt is no longer dischargeable in the bankruptcy case.   The 2012 income tax was due by April 15, 2013 and was never eligible for discharge in a bankruptcy case filed on July 4, 2015.

  • Priority debt also includes any tax assessed within 240 days before the filing date of the bankruptcy case, exclusive of-
  • Any time during which an offer in compromise with respect to that tax was pending or in effect during that 240 day period, plus 30 days; and
  • Any time during which a stay of proceedings against collections and arising out of an earlier bankruptcy filing was in effect during that 240 day period, plus 90 days.
  • Tax debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy for tax years for which:
  • returns were never filed;

Note – late filed returns should be reviewed thoroughly with an attorney to determine the circumstances and timing, and whether that tax is likely to be deemed dischargeable.

  1. Tax debt is not dischargeable with respect to returns in which the debtor fraudulently filed a return or willfully attempted in any manner to evade or defeat such tax.

It is tempting to believe that any tax debt not described here as non-dischargeable is therefore dischargeable, but this conclusion will not always be true.  Always seek legal advice when you need greater clarity regarding your specific circumstances, and especially when the amounts at issue are large.

Wage Garnishments: What can be done?

Written on: December 10th, 2015

A wage garnishment is the most common type of garnishment. It is the process of removing money from an employee’s monetary compensation­ it can also includes a garnishment on 1099 income.

Garnishments are the result of a court order, abstract or judgment or lien for an outstanding balance to a creditor and the wage garnishment will proceed until the debt is paid in full or alternative arrangements are made to pay off debt.

Like most creditors, the IRS has the authority to garnish your wages for outstanding taxes owed. But, not to panic, there are many solutions that can take care of your wage garnishments. Below are top 3 ways to handle wage garnishments for tax debts that you owe.

  1. Setting up a payment plan to pay the taxes owed over a period of time; while writing a check in full to the IRS is most ideal, many cannot afford to pay all at once, which is understandable, making payments is much more affordable and possible and the installment agreement is based on your financial ability to pay – if you are going through a hardship, the IRS may even deem your account as noncollectable for up to a year which means your wage garnishment would stop and they would hold off on collections until your financial situation improves.
  2. If you do not show an ability to make monthly payments an OIC may be an option, known as an Offer in Compromise (OIC); we review your financial situation to determine if an OIC is possible and in your best interests.
  3. Filing for bankruptcy is also an option­ our office would review your liabilities to see if a bankruptcy filing could alleviate your tax liabilities. The bankruptcy filing would immediately stop the wage garnishment and give you breathing room in order to be able to set a payment plan after the bankruptcy case is discharged.

While a wage garnishment may seem overwhelming and impossible to overcome, there are actually many options that our office can offer to help deal with outstanding tax debts. The Law Offices of Thomas P. Hogan works with the IRS every day on behalf of our clients to resolve issues that seem overwhelming and impossible. We work hard for our clients to provide the best possible service and optimum results. Our group of lawyers and experts will make sure that your tax issues are taken care of in a timely matter in order to get you back on track and out from under the oppressive burden of back taxes.

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