Tuesday, January 31, 2012

IRS Modifies Streamlined Installment Payment Program

The IRS issued a memorandum on January 20, 2012 liberalizing streamlined installment agreements. I am happy with this change.
As a refresher, the advantage of the “streamlined” is that one does not have to provide financial information to the IRS. If you have gone through this effort, you may remember IRS Form 433 – the financial information form. This is where you provide financial detail such as monthly deposits and expenses. You will also attach documentation, including copies of bank statements as well as copies of your mortgage or rent advice and certain other expenses. 
The IRS has standards for broad household expenses, such as mortgage and utilities, clothing and personal effects, medical expenses and vehicle payment and operating expenses. The IRS is inclined to use their numbers, although they will allow you to document higher or additional expenses. You then have to persuade them that your numbers are better than theirs and do not reflect a “lavish” lifestyle or incorporate”excessive” expenses. To give you an idea, the IRS does not allow for payments on your credit cards. I am not sure if they consider credit card payments to be “lavish” or “excessive.”
The “streamlined” allows you to fast-forward through this.
The liberalized streamlined rules apply only to an individual taxpayer. They do not apply to corporations and other types of businesses. You can now enter streamlined if your assessed balance (taxes, interest and penalties) is less than $50,000, an increase from the previous $25,000. In addition, you now have 72 months to pay, an increase of one year from the previous 60 months.
The IRS does charge a small fee (either $104 or $52, depending on whether you permit direct deposit) for the payment plan. Any streamlined over $25,000 must be on direct deposit.
To clarify, you do not have to enter streamlined, even if your assessed balance is less than $50,000. You can go the normal route, provide information and pursue a more favorable payment plan.  You would do that if you are pursuing a partial pay, for example. You would certainly have to go that route if you are pressing for an offer in compromise. For many people, however, the increase from $25,000 to $50,000 and an additional year to pay may make all the difference.
Why would someone hesitate to provide a 433? For one, it can be a pain to assemble and complete. Also, you have to disclose your bank accounts, including bank account numbers, on the 433. Some people believe this makes it easier for the IRS to levy your bank account. Whether correct or not, you have provided the IRS a roadmap to your finances.

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