How to settle tax debt with the IRS

Dealing with tax debt can be a daunting experience, but it’s important to remember that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides various options for taxpayers to settle their outstanding obligations. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the different strategies and programs available to help you resolve your tax debt and achieve financial stability. By understanding the processes involved and taking proactive steps, you can successfully navigate the path towards settling your tax debt with the IRS.

What happens if I don’t take care of my tax debt?

If you choose not to address your tax debt and leave it unresolved, you will face a range of consequences. Firstly, the IRS will continue to impose penalties and interest on the unpaid amount, causing your overall debt to grow significantly over time. The agency has the authority to take various collection actions to recover the money owed, such as issuing a Notice of Federal Tax Lien. This lien can negatively impact your creditworthiness, making it difficult to secure loans or transfer assets. In more severe cases, the IRS can levy your property, including bank accounts and wages, to satisfy the debt. This may lead to financial hardship and a loss of control over your assets.

 Moreover, your credit score will be adversely affected, making it harder to obtain credit cards, loans, or favorable interest rates. Additionally, the IRS can offset any future tax refunds against the outstanding debt. If you persistently neglect your tax obligations, you could face legal consequences, including fines or criminal charges in cases of tax evasion or fraud. The stress and mental burden of ignoring tax debt can take a toll on your overall well-being. Therefore, it is crucial to take timely action, communicate with the IRS, explore payment options, seek professional assistance, and fulfill your tax obligations to mitigate these potential consequences and find a resolution that suits your situation.

What options do I have for settling my IRS debt?

When it comes to settling your IRS debt, you have several options available. The appropriate option for you will depend on your financial situation and ability to pay. Here are the main options for settling IRS debt:

1. Full Payment:

Paying the full amount owed immediately is the simplest and most straightforward option. If you have the means to do so, you can make a full payment to the IRS using various methods such as online payment, check, money order, or electronic funds transfer.

2. Installment Agreement:

If you are unable to pay the full amount upfront, an installment agreement allows you to make monthly payments over time. The IRS offers different types of installment agreements to accommodate different financial situations. To establish an installment agreement, you can complete Form 9465 (Installment Agreement Request) or use the IRS Online Payment Agreement tool.

3. Offer in Compromise (OIC):

An Offer in Compromise is an option that allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount owed. To qualify for an OIC, you must demonstrate that paying the full debt would cause financial hardship or that there is a legitimate doubt as to your ability to pay. Applying for an OIC involves completing Form 656 (Offer in Compromise) and providing detailed financial information. It is recommended to seek professional assistance when pursuing an OIC, as it can be a complex process.

4. Currently Not Collectible (CNC) Status:

If you are facing financial hardship and cannot afford to make payments towards your tax debt, you may qualify for Currently Not Collectible status. This status temporarily suspends IRS collection efforts until your financial situation improves. To request CNC status, you need to provide financial documentation to the IRS that demonstrates your inability to pay.

5. Bankruptcy:

In certain circumstances, filing for bankruptcy may help with the resolution of tax debt. However, it’s important to note that not all tax debts are eligible for discharge through bankruptcy. Consulting with a tax professional or bankruptcy attorney is crucial to understand the implications and determine if bankruptcy is a viable option for your specific situation.

It’s important to communicate with the IRS, gather all relevant information, and consider seeking professional assistance when exploring these settlement options. Each option has its own requirements and considerations, so choosing the best approach will depend on your individual circumstances.


Resolving tax debt with the IRS requires knowledge, patience, and a proactive approach. By understanding the various options available, such as full payment, installment agreements, offers in compromise, currently not collectible status, and bankruptcy, you can choose the strategy that best suits your financial situation. It is crucial to communicate openly with the IRS, gather all necessary information, and consider seeking professional help when needed. Remember, settling tax debt is a process that takes time, but with determination and the right guidance, you can successfully achieve financial stability and peace of mind.