What to Do If You Can’t Pay Taxes: Expert Tips

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What to Do If You Can’t Pay Taxes: Expert Tips – this is a question that plagues many taxpayers each year. As the tax season approaches, the stress of not being able to meet tax obligations can be overwhelming. But don’t panic! There are several options available to help alleviate your financial burden. This comprehensive guide will provide you with expert tips and advice on what to do if you find yourself unable to pay your taxes.

Understanding the Consequences

The first step in dealing with unpaid taxes is understanding the consequences. If you fail to file or pay your taxes on time, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may impose penalties and interest charges on your tax debt. These penalties can add up quickly, increasing the amount you owe significantly.

What to Do If You Can't Pay Taxes: Expert Tips

According to the IRS, the failure-to-file penalty is generally more than the failure-to-pay penalty. The penalty for filing late is usually 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late. The penalty starts accruing the day after the tax filing due date and will not exceed 25% of your unpaid taxes.

On the other hand, if you file your return on time but do not pay all the taxes you owe, you’ll generally have to pay a failure-to-pay penalty of 0.5% of your unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month after the due date that the taxes are not paid. This penalty can be as much as 25% of your unpaid taxes.

Exploring Your Payment Options

If you can’t pay the full amount of taxes you owe, you shouldn’t ignore your tax obligations. The IRS offers several payment options to taxpayers who are unable to pay their taxes in full. Let’s explore these options in detail.

Installment Agreements

An installment agreement is a payment plan that allows you to pay your tax debt over time. If you owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties, and interest, you can apply for an online payment agreement. With this agreement, you can make monthly payments until your balance is paid in full.

Offer in Compromise

An offer in compromise (OIC) allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount you owe. It may be a legitimate option if you can’t pay your full tax liability, or doing so creates a financial hardship. The IRS considers your unique set of facts and circumstances such as your ability to pay, income, expenses, and asset equity when determining whether to accept an OIC.

Temporary Delay

If the IRS determines that you can’t pay any of your tax debt due to financial hardship, they may temporarily delay collection until your financial condition improves. However, during this delay, the IRS will continue to charge penalties and interest until you pay the full amount.

Seeking Professional Help

It’s okay if understanding all these payment options feel overwhelming or confusing. That’s why it can be helpful to seek professional assistance from a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA), enrolled agent (EA), or attorney who specializes in resolving unpaid tax debts.

Maintaining Good Financial Habits

Finally, once you have taken steps towards resolving unpaid taxes debts remember good financial habits like budgeting effectively moving forward so there’s no reason for those issues to arise again next year.


Paying taxes can be challenging, but you’re not alone. If you’re unable to pay your taxes on time, remember these tips and strategies that may help you avoid further financial hardship. Avoid any last-minute panic by understanding your options ahead of time and seek professional assistance if needed. By taking control early on, you’ll be able to enjoy peace of mind knowing that a solution is in place allowing for minimal interruption in daily life regarding the finances at hand.


What happens if I can’t pay my taxes?

If you cannot pay your taxes, it is important to take action and contact the IRS as soon as possible. The IRS will work with you to find a solution that works for both parties. This may involve setting up a payment plan or requesting an extension of time to pay.

Will I face penalties if I can’t pay my taxes on time?

Yes, there may be penalties incurred if you do not pay your taxes on time. Penalties include late payment fees and interest charges on unpaid balances.

How long do I have to make payment arrangements with the IRS?

The IRS offers several payment options, including installment agreements and offer-in-compromise programs. The exact length of time involved in making an arrangement depends on several factors such as your current financial situation and how much money you owe in total tax debt. It is important to note that the sooner you reach out to the IRS, the more options will be available to help resolve any tax issues before they escalate further.