Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Collection Due Process Hearing

A client recently faxed me a Notice of Intent to Levy. His tax case is relatively simple, as we are not debating the amount of tax. Rather, he is in a position where he cannot pay-off his tax due. This requires a payment plan, which can blow up if the taxpayer misses a payment. He is self-employed with erratic income, so he is at ongoing risk of blowing up his payment plan. He unfortunately believes – or has believed – that we can reactivate a payment plan whenever he feels like missing a payment, but I believe we impressed upon him that this is not the case. The IRS becomes weary, and frankly so do we.

I thought this a good time to talk about the Collection Due Process hearing.

Once you receive a Notice of Federal Tax Lien (NFTL) or Intent to Levy, you have 30 days to request a CDP hearing. If so, the levy action will be suspended for the duration of the hearing. IRS Appeals conducts the hearing. The taxpayer can appeal a CDP hearing, if so inclined.

What happens if you miss the 30 days? Not all is lost. You can request an Equivalent Hearing as long as you file within one year of the NFTL or levy notice. The difference is that you cannot appeal an Equivalent Hearing.

You have to file a form (Form 12153) and state a reason for the hearing. In our case, we will request a collection alternative, such as an installment agreement. Our client does not qualify for an offer in compromise, which is another valid reason. Other reasons include requests to release or subordinate a lien, request for innocent spouse and a dispute over the amount of unpaid taxes. An important reason in today’s economy is financial hardship, which can include heavy medical bills, unemployment, and taxpayer’s reliance on social security or unemployment benefits.

An unfortunate note is that – even if the IRS accepts the collection alternative – interest and penalties will continue to accrue.

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