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What is the IRS Fresh Start Program?

what is the irs fresh start program

A new year could mean a financial fresh start. The IRS Fresh Start program was created to help struggling taxpayers and small businesses. In 2023, taxpayers are still asking how the program works. Here are some key details about the program. 

The History of the Fresh Start Program 

The Fresh Start Initiative was established in 2011 to give first-time tax offenders leniency and the opportunity to solve their tax issues through consolidated tax bills and payment arrangements. Shortly after launching the program, the IRS made it easier to remove federal tax liens. It also allowed taxpayers to come to more favorable payment arrangements with the IRS. One year after that, the IRS gave more taxpayers access to the Offer in Compromise (OIC) program.  

Changes to Federal Tax Liens and Installment Agreements 

The IRS used to file tax liens on balances above $5,000. The Fresh Start program increased the tax balance limit to $10,000. It also gave taxpayers the chance to withdraw their lien, which then helped those taxpayers access more credit. 

Streamlined installment agreements (SLIAs) were also expanded in 2011 that allowed more favorable terms for the taxpayer and helped avoid tax liens. This allowed taxpayers with debt of up to $50,000 to be set up with a SLIA, up from the previous $25,000 cap. Further, the term length was increased from 60 months to 71 months. The simple installment agreement is preferred for most taxpayers since it does not require giving the IRS extensive documents detailing financial situations.  

Changes to the OIC Program 

The OIC program is very sought after by taxpayers with a large tax debt balance. An Offer in Compromise is essentially an agreement between the IRS and taxpayer that settles the owed tax debt for a lesser amount. However, offers are not accepted if the IRS thinks that the taxpayer is capable of paying the balance in full. In 2012, the IRS allowed greater access to the OIC program by revising how it calculates taxpayer future income, allowing taxpayers to repay student loans and past-due state and local taxes, expanding the allowable living expense amount, and reducing the offer amount for those who qualify for an OIC. It’s important to note that the IRS does not accept OICs often. In fact, the IRS only accepted about a third of OIC applications from 2010-2019.  

Tax Help for Those Who Owe 

The Fresh Start program can really help taxpayers who owe the IRS but don’t necessarily have the funds to pay their debt. Working with an experienced tax relief company can help ease the process. If you are wondering if you are eligible for the Fresh Start program, we can help. Optima Tax Relief is the nation’s leading tax resolution firm with over a decade of experience helping taxpayers.  

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