Small Business Taxes & ManagementTM--Copyright 2011, A/N Group, Inc.
In its latest effort to help struggling taxpayers, the IRS announced (IR-2011-20) a series of new steps to help people get a fresh start with their tax liabilities.
The goal is to help individuals and small businesses meet their tax obligations, without adding unnecessary burden to taxpayers. Specifically, the IRS is announcing new policies and programs to help taxpayers pay back taxes and avoid tax liens.
“We are making fundamental changes to our lien system and other collection tools that will help taxpayers and give them a fresh start,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “These steps are good for people facing tough times, and they reflect a responsible approach for the tax system.”
Today’s announcement centers on the IRS making important changes to its lien filing practices that will lessen the negative impact on taxpayers. The changes include:
This is another in a series of steps to help struggling taxpayers. In 2008, the IRS announced lien relief for people trying to refinance or sell a home. In 2009, the IRS added new flexibility for taxpayers facing payment or collection problems. And last year, the IRS held about 1,000 special open houses to help small businesses and individuals resolve tax issues with the Agency.
The current announcement comes after a review of collection operations which Shulman launched last year, as well as input from the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council and the National Taxpayer Advocate.
Tax Lien Thresholds
The IRS will significantly increase the dollar thresholds when liens are generally filed. The new dollar amount is in keeping with inflationary changes since the number was last revised. Currently, liens are automatically filed at certain dollar levels for people with past-due balances.
The IRS plans to review the results and impact of the lien threshold change in about a year.
A federal tax lien gives the IRS a legal claim to a taxpayer’s property for the amount of an unpaid tax debt. Filing a Notice of Federal Tax Lien is necessary to establish priority rights against certain other creditors. Usually the government is not the only creditor to whom the taxpayer owes money.
A lien informs the public that the U.S. government has a claim against all property, and any rights to property, of the taxpayer. This includes property owned at the time the notice of lien is filed and any acquired thereafter. A lien can affect a taxpayer's credit rating, so it is critical to arrange the payment of taxes as quickly as possible.
“Raising the lien threshold keeps pace with inflation and makes sense for the tax system,” Shulman said. “These changes mean tens of thousands of people won’t be burdened by liens, and this step will take place without significantly increasing the financial risk to the government.”
Tax Lien Withdrawals
The IRS will also modify procedures that will make it easier for taxpayers to obtain lien withdrawals.
Liens will now be withdrawn once full payment of taxes is made if the taxpayer requests it. The IRS has determined that this approach is in the best interest of the government.
In order to speed the withdrawal process, the IRS will also streamline its internal procedures to allow collection personnel to withdraw the liens.
Direct Debit Installment Agreements and Liens
The IRS is making other fundamental changes to liens in cases where taxpayers enter into a Direct Debit Installment Agreement (DDIA). For taxpayers with unpaid assessments of $25,000 or less, the IRS will now allow lien withdrawals under several scenarios:
Liens will be withdrawn after a probationary period demonstrating that direct debit payments will be honored.
In addition, this lowers user fees and saves the government money from mailing monthly payment notices. Taxpayers can use the Online Payment Agreement application on IRS.gov to set-up with Direct Debit Installment Agreements.
Installment Agreements and Small Businesses
The IRS will also make streamlined Installment Agreements available to more small businesses. The payment program will raise the dollar limit to allow additional small businesses to participate.
Small businesses with $25,000 or less in unpaid tax can participate. Currently, only small businesses with under $10,000 in liabilities can participate. Small businesses will have 24 months to pay.
The streamlined Installment Agreements will be available for small businesses that file either as an individual or as a business. Small businesses with an unpaid assessment balance greater than $25,000 would qualify for the streamlined Installment Agreement if they pay down the balance to $25,000 or less.
Small businesses will need to enroll in a Direct Debit Installment Agreement to participate.
Offers in Compromise
The IRS is also expanding a new streamlined Offer in Compromise (OIC) program to cover a larger group of struggling taxpayers.
This streamlined OIC is being expanded to allow taxpayers with annual incomes up to $100,000 to participate. In addition, participants must have tax liability of less than $50,000, doubling the current limit of $25,000 or less.
OICs are subject to acceptance based on legal requirements. An offer-in-compromise is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed. Generally, an offer will not be accepted if the IRS believes that the liability can be paid in full as a lump sum or through a payment agreement. The IRS looks at the taxpayer’s income and assets to make a determination regarding the taxpayer’s ability to pay.
Copyright 2011 by A/N Group, Inc. This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is distributed with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The information is not necessarily a complete summary of all materials on the subject. Copyright is not claimed on material from U.S. Government sources.--ISSN 1089-1536
--Last Update 02/24/11