IRS Announces Major Expansion of Offer in Compromise Program

The Internal Revenue Service recently announced a major expansion of its Offer in Compromise program, which is aimed at helping individuals with past-due to taxes to pay off their debts to the IRS. Taxpayers who participate in the program are permitted to settle their tax debts for less than they owe if they are unable to pay the full amount due.

Experts predict that the changes to the Offer in Compromise program will dramatically increase the number of taxpayers who can qualify to reduce their past-due tax obligations. The program is part of a larger IRS initiative known as "Fresh Start," which is intended to provide relief to taxpayers who have experienced financial hardships in recent years.

Changes Increase Flexibility, Eligibility

In an announcement dated May 21, 2012, the IRS characterized the expansion as "common sense changes" meant to "more closely reflect real-world situations." The changes focus on relaxing the financial eligibility requirements for the Offer in Compromise program, as well as reducing the duration of the repayment period for some participants from 4 or 5 years to as little as two years. Key provisions include:

  • Changes to how future income is calculated: The IRS will now calculate a taxpayer's reasonable collection potential based on 1 to 2 years of future income, instead of 4 to 5 years.
  • Recognition of student loan and state tax debts: Previously, the IRS did not consider a taxpayer's financial obligations for student loans or state tax delinquencies when assessing his or her eligibility for the Offer in Compromise program. The new policy also includes provisions allowing some participants in the program to repay those debts in a similar manner.
  • Expansion of Allowable Living Expenses: The IRS uses standardized Allowable Living Expenses to establish a taxpayer's budget for basic necessities and determine his or her ability to pay. The expanded living allowance permits additional miscellaneous expenses such as credit card payments and bank fees.

Because the new guidelines reduce the required value of a taxpayer's assets and future income for purposes of determining eligibility, it expected that far more taxpayers than before will qualify to settle their delinquent taxes with an Offer in Compromise. Contact an experienced tax settlement attorney for more information about settling a past-due tax obligation with an Offer in Compromise.