Once the IRS assesses a tax bill, it generally has 10 years to collect that amount before the statute of limitations expires. Holy smokes! That’s a long time to have a creditor chasing you! And this isn’t any ordinary creditor. The IRS has a lot of power that it can use to collect your late payments. The IRS can garnish wages, file a notice of federal tax lien, and empty your bank account.
If your tax bill has exploded beyond what you can pay, you’re probably already feeling the hot breath of the IRS. At this point, you need to consider your options for how to reduce or eliminate your tax bill.
If you have thought about bankruptcy, you need to be aware of its limitations. Tax debts are particularly sticky—many of them stay with you even after the bankruptcy process is complete. And it’s important to know that bankruptcy is not your only recourse. The IRS gives you four avenues of relief to help you get out of tax debt that you can read about here. Depending on your circumstances, one or more of those IRS methods could entirely eliminate that horrible tax cloud hanging over your head, or you can look into filing bankruptcy.
It is important to note that bankruptcy is not a simple process and has many lingering effects, such as the potentially decade-long hit to your credit. However, bankruptcy can be the perfect tool in the right situation—and it can permanently eliminate some of your income tax liabilities, including penalties and interest.
The following rules determine whether you can discharge your income tax debt in bankruptcy. You have to meet all three rules to qualify:
RULE #1: Debts must be more than three years old. You have to wait at least three years after the filing deadline for the tax years at issue (normally April 15 for calendar year taxpayers) before you file your bankruptcy petition. In other words, if you file your petition on April 15, 2016, you can discharge tax debts for tax years 2013 and earlier. But note that an extension pushes your filing deadline to October 15. So if you got an extension in 2013, you must wait until October 15, 2016, to file your bankruptcy petition before you can discharge tax debts from 2013.
RULE #2: You must file all tax returns. You have to wait at least two years after you filed your tax return before you file your bankruptcy petition. So what happens if you didn’t file a return for a year? To discharge that debt, you must file that return now and then wait for two years before you file for bankruptcy.
RULE #3: Wait eight months after IRS assessment. You must wait at least 240 days after the IRS assessed your taxes before you file the bankruptcy petition.
As you can see, timing is important. If you want to ensure that the bankruptcy proceeding will clear your tax debts, you must:
- Make sure you have filed all of your returns.
- Wait until enough time has passed so that you qualify for relief.
- Commit No fraud. Bankruptcy will not discharge your debt if you committed fraud or willfully evaded taxes.
Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have tax debt help questions, need Chicago business tax preparation, business entity creation, business insurance, or business compliance assistance please contact us online, or call our office toll free at 1-855-743-5765 or locally in Chicago or Indiana at 1-708-529-6604. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth.
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