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Can’t Pay Your Taxes? Here Are Some Payment Options

Tax season can be stressful, especially if you find yourself owing money to the IRS. While receiving a tax refund is a welcome surprise for many Americans, millions end up on the other side of the equation. But fear not, taxpayer! There are solutions available to help you navigate your tax obligations without breaking the bank.

This article will explore various options for handling unpaid taxes, from short-term fixes to long-term payment plans. We’ll also debunk some myths and explore resources offered by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) to help you get back on track.

Why Do People Owe Taxes?

There are a couple of common reasons taxpayers end up owing:

  • Underwithholding: This occurs when employers withhold too little tax from your paycheck throughout the year. This can happen due to various factors, such as claiming too many allowances on your W-4 form.
  • Self-employment: Self-employed individuals are responsible for making estimated tax payments throughout the year to avoid owing a large sum come tax season.

The Importance of Timely Tax Payment

Ignoring your tax debt is a recipe for a bigger headache. Late payments accrue penalties and interest, making the issue snowball over time. The IRS also has various enforcement tools at its disposal, including wage garnishment and property liens.

Exploring Your Options: How to Pay Your Tax Bill

Now, let’s delve into the different strategies you can employ to settle your tax debt:

  • Family Loan: Borrowing from a relative or friend can be an attractive option due to potentially lower interest rates. However, be sure to establish clear terms for repayment to avoid straining relationships.
  • Home Equity Loans and Lines of Credit (HELOCs): If you own a home with sufficient equity, leveraging it through a home equity loan or HELOC can provide access to funds at a competitive interest rate. However, obtaining these loans can take time, so plan accordingly.

Important Note: We strongly advise against robbing a bank (it’s illegal and comes with severe consequences!).

  • Credit Cards: While convenient, using a credit card to pay your taxes can be costly due to high-interest rates. This option should only be considered a last resort.
  • Short-Term Payment Plan: The IRS offers a short-term payment plan for those who owe less than $100,000 and can pay in full within 180 days. This online option comes with no setup fee, but penalties and interest will still apply.

IRS Installment Agreement

For those needing more extended repayment options, the IRS installment agreement is a viable solution. Here’s a breakdown of the different types:

  • Streamlined Installment Agreement: This plan is available for taxpayers owing $50,000 or less and allows for monthly payments over six years. There’s a reduced late-payment penalty, but interest and a user fee will apply. Low-income taxpayers making electronic debit payments may be exempt from the user fee.
  • Standard Installment Agreement: For tax debts exceeding $50,000, you’ll need to submit a Collection Information Statement to verify your financial situation. Similar to the streamlined option, you’ll make monthly payments, but the approval process is more complex.

Important Note: Both installment agreements require you to stay current on future tax obligations. Failing to do so can put you in default, and the IRS may take further collection actions.

Tapping Retirement Accounts: This is generally not recommended. Early withdrawals from retirement accounts like IRAs can be subject to income tax, penalties, and hinder your long-term financial security.

Filing Extensions vs. Payment Extensions

It’s crucial to understand the difference between filing an extension and a payment extension. An extension allows you more time to file your tax return, but it does not grant additional time to pay any taxes owed. Penalties and interest will still accrue on the outstanding balance.

What Happens if I Can’t Pay?

If you can’t pay your taxes and fail to communicate with the IRS, they may resort to enforced collections. This could involve wage garnishments, bank levies, or even property seizures.

The Fresh Start Initiative

The IRS offers a program called “Fresh Start” that provides more flexible terms for settling tax debts. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to negotiate a lump-sum payment significantly lower than the total amount owed.


Owing taxes can be stressful, but remember, you’re not alone. The IRS offers various solutions to help you manage your tax debt. Don’t bury your head in the sand – take action by exploring the options outlined above. If you have further questions or need personalized assistance, consider seeking professional guidance from a tax advisor or reach out to us directly. Remember, the sooner you address your tax liabilities, the sooner you can move forward with financial peace of mind.

JS Morlu LLC is a top-tier accounting firm based in Woodbridge, Virginia, with a team of highly experienced and qualified CPAs and business advisors. We are dedicated to providing comprehensive accounting, tax, and business advisory services to clients throughout the Washington, D.C. Metro Area and the surrounding regions. With over a decade of experience, we have cultivated a deep understanding of our clients’ needs and aspirations. We recognize that our clients seek more than just value-added accounting services; they seek a trusted partner who can guide them towards achieving their business goals and personal financial well-being.
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