Does The IRS Settle For Less Than Owed?  

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is often perceived as an intimidating entity when it comes to tax debt. However, taxpayers who find themselves in financial distress may wonder if the IRS is willing to settle for less than what they owe.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is often perceived as an intimidating entity when it comes to tax debt. However, taxpayers who find themselves in financial distress may wonder if the IRS is willing to settle for less than what they owe.

In this article, we will explore the IRS Fresh Start Programs available to taxpayers facing IRS debt and shed light on the settlement process.

Understanding IRS Debt  

Before delving into the settlement process, it is crucial to understand what IRS debt entails. When individuals or businesses fail to fulfill their tax obligations, such as filing returns or paying taxes owed, they can accumulate tax debt. Unpaid taxes can lead to penalties, interest charges, and potential legal consequences. Resolving IRS debt is essential to avoid these repercussions and regain financial stability.

The Settlement Process  

The IRS offers various methods to settle tax debt, depending on the taxpayer’s financial situation and ability to pay. Two common approaches are the Offer in Compromise (OIC) and Installment Agreements.

Offer in Compromise  

An Offer in Compromise is an arrangement that allows taxpayers to settle their tax debt for less than the full amount owed. Tax resolution companies like Ideal Tax can help with your Offer in Compromise. This option is available to individuals and businesses who can demonstrate that paying the full tax liability would cause undue financial hardship. The IRS evaluates the taxpayer’s income, assets, expenses, and overall financial situation to determine if they qualify for an Offer in Compromise.

Installment Agreements  

Installment Agreements provide taxpayers with the opportunity to pay their tax debt over time in manageable monthly installments. This option is suitable for individuals who can afford to pay their tax liability but require a more extended period to do so. By negotiating an Installment Agreement with the IRS, taxpayers can avoid immediate financial strain and settle their debt gradually.

Benefits of Settling IRS Debt  

Choosing to settle IRS debt offers several advantages to taxpayers facing financial hardship.

Reduced Financial Burden  

Settling tax debt for less than the full amount owed can provide substantial relief to individuals and businesses struggling with their finances. It allows them to reduce the overall burden of their tax liability and regain control over their financial situation.

Avoidance of Legal Action  

By proactively engaging in the settlement process, taxpayers can avoid potential legal consequences resulting from unresolved tax debt. Settling with the IRS can prevent actions such as wage garnishments, bank levies, or property seizures.

How to Initiate the Settlement Process  

Initiating the settlement process requires careful preparation and adherence to specific steps.

Gather Relevant Documentation  

Before approaching the IRS, it is essential to gather all relevant financial documentation. This includes income statements, expense records, asset documentation, and any other records that support the taxpayer’s financial situation.

Submitting an Offer in Compromise  

If pursuing an Offer in Compromise, taxpayers must complete Form 656, including detailed financial information and an offer amount. This form, along with the required fee, must be submitted to the IRS for evaluation.

Negotiating an Installment Agreement  

For negotiating an Installment Agreement, taxpayers can request this option through the IRS website or by phone. They will need to provide detailed financial information and propose a monthly payment amount that is reasonable and sustainable based on their income and expenses.

Factors that Determine Whether the IRS will Settle for Less than Owed  

It is quite commonplace for taxpayers to experience hardships in fulfilling their financial responsibilities to the Internal Revenue Service. However, the IRS recognizes that some taxpayers may face financial hardships and may not be able to pay their tax debts in full. In such cases, the IRS may consider settling for less than what is owed.

The decision to settle for a reduced amount largely depends on three main factors: the assets and income of the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s expenses and lifestyle, and the taxpayer’s compliance history.

1. Assets and Income of the Taxpayer  

One of the primary factors that the IRS considers when determining whether to settle for a reduced amount is the value of a taxpayer’s assets and income level. The IRS will want to know if the taxpayer has savings or assets that can be liquidated to satisfy the tax debt.

In addition, the IRS will look at the taxpayer’s income sources and their earning potential. If the taxpayer has a low income and minimal assets, they may be deemed eligible for a reduction in the tax debt owed.

2. Taxpayer’s Expenses and Lifestyle  

Another important consideration for the IRS in determining a taxpayer’s eligibility for a settlement is their expenses and lifestyle. The IRS will want to review the taxpayer’s budget to see if there are any nonessential expenses that can be eliminated to free up income to pay the tax debt.

The taxpayer’s lifestyle will also be examined to see if their expenses are reasonable and in line with their income. If the taxpayer can demonstrate that they are living modestly and prudently with limited discretionary spending, they may be deemed eligible for a settlement.

3. The Taxpayer’s Compliance History  

The IRS will also consider the taxpayer’s past compliance history when deciding whether to settle for less than owed. The IRS will review the taxpayer’s tax filings to determine if they have a history of filing their returns and paying their taxes on time. If the taxpayer has a good compliance history, the IRS may be more willing to settle for a reduced amount.

However, if the taxpayer has a history of noncompliance, the IRS may be less likely to offer a settlement.

Common Misconceptions about IRS Settlements  

There are some common misconceptions surrounding IRS settlements that need clarification.

Complete Debt Forgiveness  

Contrary to popular belief, IRS settlements do not guarantee complete debt forgiveness. While it is possible to settle for less than the total amount owed, the IRS will thoroughly evaluate the taxpayer’s financial situation before approving any settlement offer.

Easy Approval Process  

The approval process for IRS settlements can be complex and stringent. The IRS carefully examines the taxpayer’s financial records and makes a decision based on their ability to pay and compliance with tax regulations.


Resolving IRS debt is a daunting task for many taxpayers, but it is essential to explore available options. The IRS does offer settlement programs such as the Offer in Compromise and Installment Agreements, providing individuals and businesses with opportunities to settle their tax debt and alleviate financial stress. By understanding the process and meeting the eligibility criteria, taxpayers can work towards resolving their IRS debt and achieving a fresh financial start.