Best Time To File Old Taxes? NOW!

Believe it or not, the percentage of the taxpaying population who files late or doesn’t file at all is substantial.  There have been several statistics that indicate that eleven to fourteen million taxpayers fail to file their returns on time.  This could mean they do it months, if not years after the April 15th deadline.  The reasons for filing late are all across the board.  They range from forgetfulness and confusion on what to do to, all the way up to not sure how to pay a balance, to destruction of records.  No matter what the reason, we’re going to discuss why now (through say 2021) is the best time to file those old tax returns you’ve been putting off.

Covid-19 has slowed down IRS operations and processing times.  When the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) machine is humming along in a “normal” year, its computers are busy spitting out letters to taxpayers, and its personnel attempt to collect tax debt from delinquent taxpayers.  This includes audits, site visits, revenue officer contact and a host of other things.  The IRS is not “fast” in the best of times and now, due to Covid-19, their operations are severely impacted.  For example, from March through July 2020, the IRS computers were offline and NO mail sent to the IRS was opened.  All of the above can give you “more” time to address your situation.  Meaning, it can give you time to:

  • Get the documents needed to have the old tax returns prepared.
  • Allow you to prepare all the returns at once for submission.
  • Determine if (or how much) you owe the IRS and come up with a game plan to deal with it.
  • Mail or electronically file the returns with the IRS and then wait for them to catch up and respond.

If you only filed a 2018/2019 tax return for a stimulus check, but have other unfiled returns, you just put yourself back on the IRS’ radar.  Those who filed tax returns but have other unfiled tax returns, just “raised their hand” so-to-speak with the IRS.  Essentially, that person has now told the IRS 1) that they are still around and 2) where to send the letter asking about those other unfiled years.  It’s only going to be a matter of time before they reach out to you about those missing returns.  Best to use this time to perform the steps outlined in the bullet points above!

If you owe the IRS, the sooner you file, the sooner the 10 year clock for them to collect starts running.  Many taxpayers, and some practitioners, are unaware that the IRS by law only has 10 years’ time to collect a tax debt. This is referred to as the statute of limitations or in IRS speak, the Collection Statute Expiration Date or CSED for short. The 10-year period begins to run with the date of the “assessment” of the tax, not the tax year for which taxes are due. For example, if a return for 2017 is not filed until 2020 and the tax is assessed in 2020, the 10-year period begins to run in 2020 and expires in 2030.

If you’re not working or have a reduced income due to Covid-19, it could result in a “deal” with regards to your tax debt.  When it comes to settling ones tax debt, it all comes down to the IRS term referred to as reasonable collection potential or RCP.  The RCP is how the IRS measures the taxpayer’s ability to pay on the taxes they owe.  It includes the value that can be realized from the taxpayer’s assets, such as real property, automobiles, bank accounts, and other property. The RCP also includes anticipated future income, less certain amounts allowed for basic living expenses.  It is the last point that can get you a deal during these “unprecedented times” we will be facing until about 2021.

You see, if you have no assets and your income is reduced, your RCP could be $0 or even negative once the IRS factors in those allowable expenses.  If your RCP is in fact $0, then that means that you won’t have to pay them anything (at the moment).  Why?  Because the IRS will place your account into Currently Not Collectible (CNC) status.  But what is also good about not having income coming in at this time is that you may be able to settle all your tax debt via an Offer In Compromise (OIC).  The OIC program allows eligible tax debtors to pay the IRS an amount of money that is less than what they owe in order to wipe out their entire tax liability.

Now is the perfect time to “reset” your life and taxes.  Covid-19 will force some people to hit “rock bottom” so to speak.  But this is the best time to reset your life, get rid of the past and move forward.  Why?

  • When you hit rock bottom, you let go of everything. You start again with nothing and get rid of all the stuff in your life that doesn’t make sense.
  • Pain is the momentum and the motivation you’ve probably needed to make you actually deal with your tax situation once and for all.
  • Rock bottom is where your gratitude increases ten times, if not more. That’s because life is a battle and it’s not easy.  It’s not meant to be a walk in the park, but it can be so much better when you appreciate all that is around you.

Need help filing those old tax returns?  Why not make today the day you FINALLY deal with those old tax returns?  Why not take the first step to getting that IRS monkey off your back?  Take the first step RIGHT NOW and call our office or shoot us an email via the signature in our footer.  We can help you get any missing documents, file your returns and even deal with the IRS debt should you owe back taxes.  Trust us, you’ll feel much better once you put this behind you!

The Truth About Settling Tax Debt For “Pennies On The Dollar”

The most overused, deceptive, tax relief advertising catch phrase!

The most overused, deceptive, tax relief advertising catch phrase ever!

It is not uncommon for taxpayers to contact us and tell us that they want to apply for “that program” where they can settle their debt for a fraction of what they owe.  They will often tell us that they saw some ad, web site, or a salesmen told them that they could settle their tax debt for some fixed percentage or a fraction of what they owe. However, this is blatantly incorrect. There is no (absolutely no) provision in the tax code for allowing a taxpayer to pay some set percentage of their tax liability and just calling it good. It has never existed, and most likely never will.

So what exactly does “pennies on the dollar” refer to? It is a reference to the IRS Offer in Compromise (OIC) program, which allows eligible tax debtors to pay the IRS an amount of money that is less than what they owe in order to wipe out their entire tax liability.

The phrase “pennies on the dollar” was actually determined several years ago by the IRS to be a form of deceptive advertising, and they explicitly instruct licensed practitioners that the use of this phrase is a violation of Circular 230, which is the practitioner behavior handbook for working with the IRS. However, since the IRS doesn’t have jurisdiction over firms that just market these services, it comes into the FTC’s purview to look out for these deceptive marketing practices.

In advertising, you’ll hear companies talk about settling for 20%, 10%, or even less. These ads, and the sales people you talk to on the phone, are trying to sell you an OIC service package. Many of their web sites even have little interactive calculators where you type in how much you owe the IRS, and it’ll spit out a, “You may only have to pay $xxx” message.

Instead, the amount of your OIC settlement is calculated using a very, very strict formula… and that formula is NOT secret — it’s available on a worksheet in IRS publication 656B.

Based on this formula, if you have equity in assets that exceeds your tax debt, you simply don’t qualify. Period. End of story. For most individuals, the common thing is going to be equity in your house or rental properties, or perhaps equity in a collection of classic cars, stamps, coins, guns, art, etc. If the value of ANY of that stuff is greater than your tax debt, you do not qualify for the OIC program  – there is no way around this.

In the same vein, if you are a high income earner, it’s also highly unlikely you will qualify for the OIC program. The reason for this is that the IRS only allows certain amounts of money every month as “eligible expenses” for housing, cars, food, etc. If your lifestyle exceeds these amounts, the IRS doesn’t care — they will only allow you to claim the National Standard expenses. Any monthly income over those amounts gets multiplied by either 12 or 24, and THAT number goes into your offer amount.

In these circumstances, you may qualify for a period of up to 12 months to make a “lifestyle adjustment,” and reduce your living expenses to come into line with IRS standards. This will often involve selling luxury homes and getting rid of toys such as cars and boats. Keep in mind that these items are all covered by your tax lien, so any proceeds from the sale of these items technically is owned by the IRS, and should be paid over to them. A good tax representative can assist you with structuring these sales so that both you and the IRS get something out of it.

Beware of anybody promising that your tax debt can be settled for some fixed percentage of the debt. That’s not the way it works, and never has. Anybody trying to sell you on that idea is OUTRIGHT LYING TO YOU, and you should seek assistance elsewhere.

Do you need help with a back tax matter?  Visit our Got IRS Debt page and enter your information in the box on the left for a FREE 30 minute Tax Debt Settlement Analysis.  This analysis, valued at $197, will look at your situation and tell you what IRS programs you qualify for to settle your IRS headaches once and for all. Alternatively, you can simply call us at the number in the upper right portion of this page and we’d be happy to schedule an appointment time for you.

2014 IRS Collection Statistics

IRS Stats

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is the single largest collections agency in the world. We always find it kind of cool to analyze the collections data that is released every year. It always provides some insight into what is going on in the “delinquent” or “unfiled” tax return world. Since filing old tax returns is what this site is all about, here are some interesting tidbits from the most recent statistics available:

Budget & Personnel
In 2014 the IRS spent $11.6 billion and employed just over 84,000 to collect more than $3.1 trillion in tax revenue. Of those 84,000 personnel, over 18,000 are directly involved in enforced collections against taxpayers that owe back taxes.  In 2013 the IRS spent $11.6 billion to collect $2.8 trillion in tax revenue, using just under 87,000 employees, of which 19,000 were involved in enforced collections.

Delinquent Tax Return Inventory
In 2014 the IRS began with 11.7 million delinquent accounts (unfiled returns).  7.6 million new cases were added to inventory while only 6.9 million were closed.  This put the ending inventory at 12.4 million returns.  In 2013 the IRS saw 7.7 million new cases added to inventory but they were able to close 7.5 million.

Examinations
In 2013 there were 145.2 million individual tax returns filed, of which 1.2 million were selected for review (audit) in 2014.  Thus the effective audit rate was 0.9%.  Of those returns examined, the IRS proposed changes in 87% of them with an associated $11.8 billion increase in taxes owed.  For the returns that were reviewed in 2013, the audit rate was 1%, the IRS proposed changes in 89% of what it reviewed with an associated tax increase of $14 billion.

Enforcement
In 2014 the IRS filed 535 million Federal tax liens against taxpayers.  This was a 11% decline when compared to 2013.  Likewise, 432,000 seizures were conducted, which was down 21% from the prior year.  However, 1.9 billion levy notices were filed against taxpayers which was a 7.6% increase over 2013.

Offers In Compromise
In 2014 the IRS received 68,000 offers where taxpayers attempted to settle their tax debt for less than what was owed.  Of that number, the IRS accepted 27,000, which was a 12.9% decline from what the agency accepted in 2013.

What Does This All Mean?
The summary version of the above is that:

  • IRS budget cuts are forcing the agency to collect more tax revenue (current and delinquent) with a reduced staff
  • While the number of “new” unfiled returns added to inventory is increasing, the IRS isn’t able to close the gap on the case load
  • The IRS is examining fewer returns and enforced collections are down
  • All those commercials touting that you can settle your taxes for “pennies on the dollar” apparently don’t want you to read the IRS Consumer Alert about such statements.  They also don’t want you to know that the IRS only accepts less than approximately 45% of the offers it receives

We always tell our clients that while the IRS may be slow, they eventually do catch up with you.  If you are facing a tax problem, please know that “hoping” it will go away is not the answer.  The last thing you want is for the IRS to reach into your bank account on grocery day and take everything you’ve got in the account because you didn’t respond to the dozens of letters they sent you.  Didn’t get the letter?  The IRS doesn’t care because from their viewpoint, just because you  didn’t get it, didn’t mean we didn’t send it!

We’re always here to help you out.  So if you’d like to discuss your situation or want to file any of those “delinquent” returns you’re sitting on, feel free to give us a call at the number listed in the upper right or shoot us an email to the address listed in the footer of this page.