The IRS Can Seize Your Salary or File a Federal Tax Lien Against Your Property
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Owing money to the IRS is a scary proposition, but ignoring the agency is never a good option.
In 2013, over 66 million people received a tax refund with the amount averaging $2,827. However, over 14 million people owed taxes.
If you find yourself owing money and are strapped for cash to meet the April 15 deadline, you have several options to solve your problem. Finding the lesser of all evils can be easy depending on your situation.
Even if you are unable to pay the total amount by the deadline, you still must file your taxes, said Scott Halliwell, a financial planner for USAA, a San Antonio, Texas financial institution. If you don't file, you face paying a penalty along with the interest that has been accrued.
If you fail to make arrangements with the IRS, they will either use a future refund to offset the bill or even worse, file a federal tax lien against your property or seize your salary through a tax levy.
"The reality is that is not a pleasant situation, but don't panic to make the situation worse," he said. "You have to accept it is real. You are already going to get hit with penalties and interest for owing taxes. Don't add to the total amount."
Most consumers turn to their plastic. The IRS accepts credit card payments, but make sure that you have a payment plan in place to pay the debt off soon to pay less interest.
"This option is easier, and you have taken care of the balance," Halliwell said. "The downside is that you have to pay interest and some of the rates are as high as 24%. You need to be thoughtful if this is the right approach."
Some tax preparation companies offer installment plans with an interest-free grace period for a fee; however, read the fine print so that you aren't charged a high interest rate if you can't pay the amount during the grace period.
Banks will also give you a line of credit for your personal needs, but a home equity loan can be a better option because the interest rates tend to be significantly lower, he said.
"Take a step back and explore all of the options," Halliwell said.
Tapping into your retirement funds such as your 401(k) should be one of your last options since it can hinder your retirement plans. However, a 401(k) loan might have the most attractive terms available. One of the largest caveats is that if you switch jobs, you have to pay your entire loan back typically within 60 to 90 days. Otherwise, the loan is counted as income and is taxable.
"It can be a little risky," he said. "The other downside is that the money you had invested for your future has lost its growth opportunity."