Can’t Pay Taxes in Full? Learn About IRS Payment Plans

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Paying taxes is a civic duty that every American citizen is expected to fulfill. However, life can sometimes throw financial curveballs that make it challenging to meet these obligations. If you find yourself unable to pay your tax bill in full, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has various payment plans to help you navigate this predicament. This comprehensive guide will delve into the specifics of these IRS payment plans, providing you with the necessary knowledge to manage your tax obligations effectively.

Understanding IRS Payment Plans

The IRS recognizes that taxpayers may face financial hardships that make it difficult to pay their taxes in full. To accommodate these situations, the IRS has established a variety of payment plans. These plans are designed to meet the needs of different taxpayers, taking into account their unique financial circumstances.

Can't Pay Taxes in Full? Learn About IRS Payment Plans

Types of IRS Payment Plans

Installment Agreement

An Installment Agreement is a common option for taxpayers who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties, and interest. This plan allows you to make monthly payments towards your tax debt. The duration of the payment period can range from several months to up to six years, depending on the amount you owe.

For instance, John, a small business owner, found himself owing $30,000 in taxes due to an unexpected downturn in his business. He opted for an Installment Agreement and was able to pay off his debt in manageable monthly installments over five years.

Offer In Compromise

An Offer In Compromise (OIC) allows taxpayers to settle their outstanding tax debt for less than the full amount they owe. To qualify for an OIC, you must provide evidence of financial hardship or prove that you are unable to pay back the full amount.

Consider the case of Sarah, a single mother who lost her job and was unable to pay her tax bill of $20,000. She applied for an OIC, demonstrating her financial hardship, and was able to settle her debt for a significantly lower amount.

Partial Payment Plan

A Partial Payment Plan is designed for taxpayers who cannot afford regular payments under an Installment Agreement or an OIC. This plan allows you to make smaller, more manageable payments towards your tax debt.

For example, Mike, a retiree with a fixed income, owed $15,000 in taxes. He couldn’t afford the regular payments under an Installment Agreement or an OIC. By opting for a Partial Payment Plan, he was able to make smaller payments that fit his budget.

Benefits of Using An IRS Payment Plan

Choosing to use an IRS-approved payment plan comes with several benefits:

  • Avoiding fees: By opting for a payment plan instead of ignoring your tax bill, you can avoid late-filing or late-payment penalties.
  • Avoiding collection action: Enrolling in a payment plan shows the IRS that you are making an effort to meet your tax obligations. This can prevent the IRS from taking more aggressive collection actions against you.
  • Reduced interest rates: The IRS offers reduced interest rates on unpaid taxes for taxpayers enrolled in a payment plan. This means that your total tax bill may be lower than it would be without a payment plan.
Payment Plan Pros Cons
Installment Agreement Allows for manageable monthly payments, avoids late-payment penalties Interest continues to accrue until the debt is paid in full
Offer In Compromise Allows for settlement of debt for less than the full amount owed, avoids collection action Requires proof of financial hardship, not all taxpayers will qualify
Partial Payment Plan Allows for smaller, more manageable payments, avoids collection action Takes longer to pay off the debt, interest continues to accrue

Applying For An IRS Payment Plan

If you wish to apply for an IRS payment plan, it’s important to act quickly. You can apply online through the IRS website, or you can visit a local Taxpayer Assistance Center for help. Be sure to check the eligibility criteria before applying.


The IRS understands that financial hardships can make it difficult to pay your full tax bill at once. However, with the various payment plans available, managing your tax obligations doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you’re struggling to pay your taxes in full, don’t hesitate to explore these options and find a plan that suits your financial situation.


  1. How do I apply for an IRS payment plan if I can’t afford to pay my taxes in full? You can apply for an IRS payment plan online by filling out the Online Payment Agreement application on the IRS website. Alternatively, you can complete and mail Form 9465-FS, Request for Installment Agreement.
  2. What types of payment plans does the IRS offer? The IRS offers several types of payment plans, including short-term payment plans (120 days or less), long-term installment agreements (more than 120 days), and partial payment installment agreements.
  3. Will I still accrue penalties and interest while on a payment plan? Yes, penalties and interest will continue to accrue while you’re paying off your tax debt through a payment plan. However, these may be reduced if you qualify for certain relief programs.