If you you have tax debt, you have undoubtedly heard a lot about the Fresh Start Initiative (FSI) in radio ads, TV advertisements, online and more. Many of these advertisements will make you think that the IRS has some “special program” or that it is some recent change the IRS made. Both of these facts could be further from the truth.
You see, many tax experts and consumer advocates had accused the IRS of failing to assist those who had significant tax debt, but were trying to pay it off. So in 2011 (yes, 8 years ago at the time of this writing), the IRS announced the creation of a new initiative known as the FSI. This was in response to the critics, law makers and the fact that people were still being impacted by the recession.
The primary objective of the FSI was to give taxpayers who owed substantial back taxes the opportunity to consolidate their tax bills and pay them off in a convenient and orderly fashion. The key thing to take away is that the IRS made it easier for one to pay their debt. Contrary to what the advertisements say, the FSI was not:
- A program to forgive a persons tax debt
- Some magical bullet to simply give the IRS a fraction of the tax debt or “pennies on the dollar” and call it good
- A program at all
What Changes Did the IRS Make with the FSI?
The primary provisions of the program included the following:
Tax Lien Changes. The FSI increased the tax debt threshold at which the IRS will file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien (Letter 3172). The threshold amount increased from $5,000 to $10,000. This was a good thing because having a tax lien on your credit report can hinder several things (e.g. ability to get credit, a job, etc). But do keep in mind that the IRS (at its discretion) can still file a tax lien on someone if they have a debt that is below $10,000.
The IRS also made changes regarding the withdrawal of tax liens, which eliminates the Notice of a Tax Lien publicly. Specifically, it made it so a lien could be withdrawn via these situations:
- The tax debt was paid off in full or the statute of limitations (CSED) was reached. Although IRS liens are generally self-releasing, they don’t always come off. Therefore, a taxpayer could now call the IRS and tell them to release the lien because they met either of the two qualifications.
- If you have entered into OR converted your regular installment agreement to a Direct Debit installment agreement, the tax lien can be withdrawn if:
- You are a qualifying taxpayer (i.e. individuals, businesses with income tax liability only, and out of business entities with any type of tax debt)
- You owe $25,000 or less (If you owe more than $25,000, you may pay down the balance to $25,000 prior to requesting withdrawal of the Notice of Federal Tax Lien)
- Your Direct Debit Installment Agreement must full pay the amount you owe within 60 months or before the Collection Statute expires, whichever is earlier
- You are in full compliance with other filing and payment requirements
- You have made three consecutive direct debit payments
- You can’t have defaulted on your current, or any previous, Direct Debit Installment agreement.
Installment Agreement Changes. The FSI increased the threshold for which an individual can qualify for a Streamlined Installment Agreement from $25,000 to $50,000. It also expanded the tax debt amount threshold for small businesses to qualify for a Direct Debit Installment Agreement (DDIA) from $10,000 to $25,000. Furthermore, small businesses can pay down balances above $25,000 in order to qualify for a DDIA. The reason these increases are important is because they:
- Require minimal, if any, financial disclosure to the IRS;
- Don’t require an IRS manager to approve the payment terms;
- Don’t require taxpayers to liquidate assets to pay the IRS; and,
- Can be set up in one phone call or interaction with the IRS.
Offer in Compromise Changes. If a person qualifies, the OIC program allows a person to settle their debt for a “reduced” amount. The FSI made changes regarding the financial analysis component used to determine which taxpayers qualify for an OIC (or not). Specifically it made the following changes:
- Lump Sum OIC Payment – The IRS now looks at only one year of future income versus four years (i.e. 12 vs 48 months).
- Short-Term OIC Periodic Payment – The IRS now looks at two years of future income versus five years (i.e. 24 vs 60 months).
Currently Not Collectible Changes. When a taxpayer is in this IRS status, enforcement actions cease. To get into CNC, generally the taxpayer will need to provide sufficient documentation to justify this status with the IRS. The FSI made the process easier for individuals who owe $10,000 or less to qualify for a CNC by easing the documentation requirements.
Are YOU looking for a fresh start regarding your tax debt?
Look, we know that most with tax debt would love nothing more than for someone to waive a magic wand and make their debt disappear. While we can’t offer that, we can help you make your problem disappear if you engage us! For example, did you know that the IRS only has 10 years to collect on your tax debt? After that, it will vanish!
So take a look at the post above where we offer a flat fee product where we will calculate your CSED. Or, you can visit this page and learn more about our IRS Debt Representation services. In either case, we encourage you to act NOW so that your fresh start can begin as soon as tomorrow!