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Ask Phil: IRS Enforcement

Today, Optima Tax Relief’s Lead Tax Attorney, Phil Hwang, discusses IRS enforcement, including the statute of limitations and how it might affect your credit report. 

Did you know the IRS has a certain amount of time to collect your tax debt before it expires? How long? Well, the simple answer is 10 years, but several factors can pause this timeline. For example, filing for bankruptcy, living abroad, applying for an installment agreement, submitting an offer in compromise, applying for innocent spouse relief, applying for a taxpayer assistance order, requesting a collection due process hearing, serving in the military, or being sued by the IRS can all pause the 10-year collections period 

Many also wonder if IRS enforcement can affect your credit. The IRS can file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien, or a priority claim over all of your assets. While this notice does not show up on your credit report directly, it does become public information that creditors can access through supplemental reports. This can affect your access to credit, business opportunities, and even employment. 

Join us next Friday as Phil will answer your questions about levies and wage garnishments! 

If You Are Being Hit with IRS Enforcement, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation 

Optima Newsletter – June 2023

optima newsletter
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Taxes

Bankruptcy is an exhausting process that individuals and corporations may have to go through when they are overburdened by financial obligations. While it provides the opportunity for a fresh start, it is critical to be mindful of the tax implications. In this blog article, we will discuss the tax implications of bankruptcy, assisting you in understanding the potential penalties and providing guidance to help you navigate this complex scenario. 

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Are You At Risk of IRS Audits and Collections?

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 has equipped the IRS with more than $80 billion in funding. That means more audits and more enforcement. CEO David King and Lead Tax Attorney Philip Hwang provide helpful tips on what you can expect from the IRS moving forward and how you can resolve your tax burden.

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What Medical Expenses Are Tax Deductible?

While medical bills can be a significant hardship for many individuals and families, it is critical to understand that certain medical expenses are tax deductible. Understanding the eligibility criteria and documentation requirements will help you in optimizing your deductions and possibly lowering your tax payment. In this post, we will look at medical expenses that are tax deductible.

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Understanding Tax Withholding

Withholding too little tax from your paychecks can result in a tax bill during tax time, while withholding too much tax can result in smaller paychecks than necessary. That being said, understanding tax withholding is crucial because it directly affects your income, tax liability, and financial planning. Here is a breakdown of tax withholding. 

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Am I Responsible for My Spouse’s Back Taxes?

am i responsible for my spouse's back taxes

Marriage is a union of two individuals, joining both their lives and responsibilities. As financial obligations and responsibilities intertwine, questions arise about whether one spouse is accountable for the other’s past tax liabilities. In this article, we will help you determine if you’re responsible for your spouse’s back taxes. We’ll explore the factors that determine liability and the potential consequences for both parties involved. 

Can the IRS Hold Me Liable for My Spouse’s Tax Debt? 

The short answer to this question is yes. However, there are certain factors that may come into play to decide for sure, including when you filed and under which filing status. When you‘re married, you suddenly have two new filing status options to choose from . You can go with married filing jointly or married filing separately. Which of these options you choose will greatly determine whether the IRS can hold you accountable for tax debt.  

When you file jointly, you assume joint and several liability. This means that both spouses are individually and collectively responsible for any taxes, interest, and penalties owed on a joint tax return. Even if you yourself did not do anything wrong, or you were unaware of any wrongdoing by your spouse, you are still 100 percent legally responsible for your shared tax debt.  

If you file separately in a year when your spouse incurred tax debt, youre not responsible for it. Filing separately means you will only be held accountable for your own tax debt.  

How Does Timing Affect Whether I’m Liable for My Spouse’s Back Taxes? 

Timing is the second factor that can determine your liability for your spouse’s tax debt. If your spouse had tax debt before you were married, only they are responsible for that debt. You can apply for Injured or Innocent Spouse Relief if the IRS attempts to collect from you. If your spouse incurs tax debt during your marriage, you will use the guidelines outlined above to determine your liability.

Remember, it all depends on which filing status you used during the year the tax debt appeared. If your spouse incurs tax debt after your marriage, you may be responsible for it if you filed jointly, even if you were legally separated. However, in this case, you might be able to apply for Separation of Liability relief. This will limit your liability if you and your spouse were no longer married or living together when they incurred their tax debt.  

Tax Relief Options for Spouses 

If your spouse incurs tax debt, you may qualify for some type of relief. Here are the most common options. 

Innocent Spouse Relief  

If your spouse did not report all income, claimed credits they weren’t eligible for, or took improper deductions on a joint return without your knowledge, you may qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief. This option is more common for taxpayers who are no longer married. To request relief, taxpayers should file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief. Innocent spouses must file within two years of receiving an IRS notice informing you of the tax debt. 

Injured Spouse Relief 

Injured spouse relief, on the other hand, is typically for individuals who are currently married, and your portion of your joint tax refund was used to pay pre-existing debt that belongs to your spouse. This can include overdue child support, other taxes due, etc. To request this relief option, taxpayers should file Form 8279, Injured Spouse Allocation. They should file within three years of the return being filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever event happened later.  

Separation of Liability Relief 

Separation of Liability Relief applies in situations where a joint return was filed, and the innocent spouse can demonstrate that they are divorced or legally separated from the other spouse. Under this relief, the IRS divides tax liabilities between the spouses based on their respective shares of income, deductions, and credits. To request relief, taxpayers should file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief within two years of receiving an IRS notice informing you of the tax debt. 

Equitable Relief 

If you’re not eligible for innocent spouse relief or separation of liability relief, you might qualify for equitable relief. Equitable relief can save you from paying your spouse’s understated or underpaid taxes on your joint return. This relief option is typically only granted for taxes due on your spouse’s income and assets and not your own. To request relief, taxpayers should file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief within two years of receiving an IRS notice informing you of the tax debt. 

Tax Help for Innocent Spouses 

There are scenarios that would disqualify you from relief. These include knowledge of the errors your spouse made or signing an offer in compromise with the IRS. It’s also important to note that these relief options can take months for the IRS to review and process. Be sure to consult with a qualified tax professional to make sure you know your options. Luckily, the IRS recognizes the need to protect innocent parties and provides relief options for them. Optima Tax Relief is the nation’s leading tax resolution firm with over a decade of experience helping taxpayers with tough tax situations.  

Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation 

Can I Buy a House if I Owe Back Taxes?

can i buy a house if i owe back taxes

Buying a house is an exciting milestone in life, representing stability, investment, and the fulfillment of a dream. However, for individuals who owe back taxes, the path to homeownership can seem uncertain. It’s essential to understand the implications and challenges associated with buying a house while having outstanding tax debt. In this article, we will explore the factors to consider and strategies to help you navigate this unique situation. 

Understanding Back Taxes 

Before diving into the home buying process, it’s crucial to understand what back taxes are. Back taxes are unpaid taxes from previous years, either due to underpayment or non-payment. The IRS may assess penalties, interest, and other charges on the outstanding amount, which can accumulate over time. While it’s not impossible to buy a house while having a tax balance, owing back taxes can potentially hurt your ability to qualify for a mortgage. 

Addressing Back Taxes 

Addressing your back taxes is crucial before attempting to buy a house, especially since most lenders will not want to approve you for a mortgage if you haven’t made any attempt to resolve your tax debt. This is because if you owe back taxes and own a home, the IRS can place a tax lien on your property, which gives them first dibs at the home if you do not pay your back taxes. In other words, your lender would incur a major financial loss. Here are a few steps to help you address your tax debt: 

  1. Evaluate your options: The IRS may offer options for resolving back taxes, such as installment agreements, offers in compromise, or currently not collectible status. Consult a tax professional to determine the best course of action for your situation. 
  2. Establish a payment plan: If you can’t pay the entire amount upfront, consider setting up a payment plan with the IRS. This allows you to make monthly payments towards your tax debt over an extended period. Demonstrating a consistent repayment history will show lenders your commitment to resolving your financial obligations. 
  3. Consider professional help: If your tax debt is complex or substantial, seek the assistance of a tax professional. These professionals can negotiate with the IRS on your behalf and help you explore potential resolution options. 
  4. Prioritize tax debt repayment: Make it a priority to pay down your tax debt as much as possible. Dedicate a portion of your budget to regular payments, aiming to reduce your overall tax liability over time. 

Qualifying for a Mortgage While Owing Back Taxes 

Once you’ve made significant progress in addressing your back taxes, you can focus on qualifying for a mortgage. Here are a few considerations: 

  1. Credit score and history: Your credit score plays a crucial role in the mortgage application process. Maintaining a good credit score and demonstrating responsible financial behavior will enhance your chances of securing a mortgage. 
  2. Debt-to-income ratio: Lenders assess your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) to evaluate your ability to manage mortgage payments. Paying down your tax debt and minimizing other outstanding debts can improve your DTI ratio and increase your chances of mortgage approval. 
  3. Documentation: Prepare thorough documentation of your financial situation, including proof of income, tax returns, and documentation related to your tax debt repayment. This documentation will help demonstrate your financial stability and responsible approach to resolving your tax obligations. 

Qualifying for a mortgage while owing back taxes can depend on the type of loan you are seeking. For example, FHA loans are more desired for buyers because they allow you to buy a home with looser financial requirements. If you are seeking an FHA loan but owe back taxes, you must have made at least three payments to an IRS installment agreement, and meet other conditions, to be approved.  

Getting Approved for a Mortgage While Owing Back Taxes 

If you do manage to get a lender to approve you for a mortgage while owing back taxes, you should expect your tax bill to have an effect on your monthly payments. Because you will be considered a high-risk borrower, your interest rate will likely be higher than that of a low-risk borrower. You may also be required to put down a much larger down payment if the lender feels this might mitigate the risk that you come with. It goes without saying that these terms are not favorable for buyers, and seeking tax help from a professional can help lower the cost and stress associated with buying a home. Optima Tax Relief is the nation’s leading tax resolution firm with over a decade of experience helping taxpayers with tough tax situations.  

Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation