What if I can't pay my taxes?
The April 15 payment deadline is just around the corner, and you just discovered you owe more tax than you can afford to pay right now.
First of all, don't panic! Follow our step-by-step guide to minimize – or even eliminate – late-filing and late-payment penalties.
Step 1 - File your return or extension by April 15
If you do nothing else on this page, at least file your return (or extension) by April 15.
The late-filing penalty can be up to 10 times higher than the late-payment penalty!
Don't let an unexpected tax bill stop you from filing. If you can't finish your return by April 15, file an extension so you can at least avoid the higher late-filing penalty.
Step 2 - Make a partial payment by April 15
Late-payment penalties and interest are calculated as a monthly percentage of your outstanding balance after April 15. The less you owe and the sooner you pay it off, the better.
To make a partial tax payment when filing your return, select the option I will mail a check when asked how you want to pay your federal taxes. (Don't choose the direct debit or credit card payment options; these will charge the full owed amount, which you probably don't want.)
You can also make a partial payment when filing an extension; TurboTax will walk you through this when you prepare your extension.
Step 3 - Call the IRS to discuss payment options or consider an installment plan
If you can't pay off your tax bill in one shot, the IRS might give a few more months to pay. There's no fee to set this up, other than applicable penalties and interest until your bill is paid off.
Give the IRS a call at 1-800-829-1040 if you think you can pay off your outstanding tax bill within 4 months. (You might want to call them after April 15, so you're not sitting on hold forever.)
You can also apply for the IRS Fresh Start Installment Agreement. There are qualifications you must meet, and there is a fee to set this up.
Here are the different ways to apply:
- Online at the Online Payment Agreement Application site;
- By filling out Form 9465 in TurboTax or at IRS.gov;
- By calling the IRS at 1-800-829-1040; or
- By visiting your local IRS office in person.
Can I get an installment agreement for my state taxes?
Possibly. Many states allow taxpayers to request an installment agreement, as long as certain conditions (which vary from state to state) are met.
The process for requesting a state installment agreement also varies; some states only require a phone call, whereas other states make you fill out a form.
As a rule, TurboTax State programs don't support state installment agreement requests, but there are exceptions such as California's Form 3567.
If you do not see this option in your state program interview, contact your state tax agency and ask if they offer an installment agreement.