Back Taxes: Is an IRS Offer in Compromise a Good Idea Before Interest Rates Hit 6% in October?

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The IRS’s announcement that it will raise interest rates on underpayment and overpayment of income taxes means millions of Americans will face yet another cost increase in a year of historic inflation. For some, it might make sense work out an “offer in compromise” with the IRS before the higher interest rates kick in later this year.

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An offer in compromise lets you settle your tax debt for less than the full amount you owe. It could be a smart option if you can’t pay your full tax liability or if doing so creates a financial hardship. It might be especially beneficial given the IRS’s Monday announcement that interest rates will increase for the quarter beginning Oct. 1.

For individuals, the interest rate for overpayments and underpayments will rise to 6% per year, compounded daily. That’s up from 5% for the current quarter. If you underpaid and owe more taxes, you’ll pay a higher interest rate on the amount owed beginning Oct. 1.

In this case, you might want to pursue an offer in compromise. According to the IRS website, the agency will consider you for an offer in compromise based on your income, expenses, asset equity and ability to pay your tax debt. Just keep in mind that there’s a $205 non-refundable application fee, so make sure the potential savings exceed the fee.

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The IRS typically approves an offer in compromise when the amount you offer represents the most the agency can expect to collect within a reasonable period of time. You can confirm your eligibility and prepare a preliminary proposal using the IRS’s Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier Tool.

You’re eligible to apply for an offer in compromise if you:

  • Filed all required tax returns and made all required estimated payments
  • Aren’t in an open bankruptcy proceeding
  • Have a valid extension for a current-year return (if applying for the current year)
  • Are an employer and made tax deposits for the current and past two quarters before you apply

If you apply for an offer in compromise and the IRS declines, the agency will return your application and application fee, and apply any offer payment you included to your balance due.

You can find forms to submit an application and also access step-by-step instructions by using Form 656-B, Offer in Compromise Booklet.

Your initial payment amount varies based on your offer and the payment option you choose. Here are the payment options:

  • Lump sum cash: Submit an initial payment of 20% of the total offer amount with your application. If the IRS accepts your offer, you’ll receive written confirmation. You must pay any remaining balance due on the offer in five or fewer payments.
  • Periodic payment: Submit your initial payment with your application. Continue to pay the remaining balance in monthly installments while the IRS considers your offer. If the IRS accepts your offer, continue to pay monthly until it is paid in full.
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If you meet the low-income certification guidelines, you won’t have to send the application fee or the initial payment. You also won’t have to make monthly installments while the IRS reviews your offer.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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