What happens if you owe taxes?

Jan 10, 2024 By Susan Kelly

Are you worried because you owe taxes? It's a common concern for many who find themselves with an unexpected – or often expected! – bill from the IRS. As intimidating as that may seem, it doesn't have to be the end of the world.

In this blog post, we will explore options available when it comes time to pay your taxes and provide helpful advice so you can understand what happens if you owe taxes. Let's dive in!

Overview of Tax Liability and Penalties

When it comes to taxes, understanding your tax liability is the first step in finding a solution. Tax liability refers to the amount of money you owe the IRS for a period.

This can include income taxes, self-employment taxes, and other payments such as estimated taxes. Depending on your situation, penalty and interest may also be applied to the total amount due.

The penalties for failing to pay taxes can be severe, so it's important to understand what you owe and explore all available options if you find yourself owing money at tax time. Fortunately, several solutions allow taxpayers to pay their taxes on time without breaking the bank.

Options for Paying Your Tax Bill

There are a few different options available to you if you owe taxes. The most common choice is to pay the amount due in full. This can be done through direct payment via check, credit card, or electronic funds transfer (EFT) from your bank account.

If paying off the entire amount at a time is not an option, the IRS also allows taxpayers to set up a payment plan. Under this arrangement, you can make multiple payments until the debt is paid in full.

There are two types of payment plans available: short-term and long-term. Generally, short-term payment plans last 120 days or less, whereas long-term payment plans last more than 120 days.

An offer in the concession is still another choice to think about. An OIC is a deal reached by the taxpayer and the IRS that enables the taxpayer to pay a portion of the debt rather than the full amount.

In certain cases, the IRS may approve an OIC if it determines you cannot pay the full amount owed.

What to do if You Owe Taxes

Regarding taxes, the best thing you can do is stay calm and understand how to proceed. Depending on your financial situation, several options are available for paying off the taxes you owe.

One of the first things to consider when figuring out how to pay your taxes is whether or not you can make a full or partial payment. If you can make a full payment, the IRS may waive certain penalties and fees associated with late payments.

However, if you cannot pay in full, the IRS still offers several other options for paying off your taxes.

One of those options is an Installment Agreement. An installment agreement allows you to pay off your debt over time and creates a payment plan that works for you. You'll also be charged interest on any unpaid balance with an installment agreement.

An offer of concession is an additional choice. The IRS and the taxpayer have settled on this method. It allows taxpayers to pay off a portion of their tax burden. The IRS considers your income, expenses, and assets while determining an OIC's viability.

Understanding the Difference between IRS-imposed Penalties and Interest

When paying back taxes, the IRS will impose penalties and interest. Understanding how these two fees differ is essential to make an informed decision when paying your taxes.

Penalties are designed to punish taxpayers who fail to pay their taxes on time or don't file a return. These fees are a percentage of the total tax owed and will increase depending on how long you wait to pay your taxes.

On the other hand, interest is applied to any unpaid balances and is calculated from the date that taxes were. The penalty amount varies depending on the circumstances but is usually based on a percentage of the unpaid taxes.

How to File an Extension for Filing Your Tax Return

If you think you owe taxes but need more money to pay them immediately, filing an extension can be a great way to buy some time. Filing an extension will extend the due date of your return for up to six months.

You must file for the extension by the original due date – April 15th if you're filing a personal tax return – and you need to include any estimated taxes that you may owe.

The IRS also charges an additional late filing penalty if you fail to file for an extension by the due date. The penalty is 5% of your unpaid taxes each month, up to 25%.

Therefore, taking action before the due date and filing your extension to avoid further penalties is important.

Strategies for Dealing with a Tax Debt

It can be incredibly frustrating to receive notice of taxes due. Fortunately, there are strategies you can employ to make paying your taxes more manageable. Here's what to do if you owe money on your taxes:

1. Contact the IRS – You must notify the IRS immediately if you cannot fully pay your taxes. You might be able to set up a repayment schedule to pay off your balance gradually.

2. Consider an Offer in concession– This is a settlement option where you can negotiate with the IRS to reduce the amount of taxes you owe. If approved, this can help save you thousands of dollars in taxes.

3. Take advantage of deductions and credits – They can lower your taxes if you are eligible for certain deductions or credits. Be sure to check with a tax professional if unsure about any available options.

4. Consider other payment methods– You can pay your taxes in many different ways, from using a credit card to setting up an installment plan.

Depending on the taxes you owe, some methods might be more beneficial than others. Research all available options before deciding.

It's important to remember that even if you cannot pay your taxes right away, the situation is still possible.


What happens if I owe taxes and can't pay?

If you Don't ignore your bill isn't pay the full amount due, don't offers several payment options that may work for you, including installment agreements and online payment plans.

An installment agreement allows you to make monthly payments toward your tax debt over an extended period. An online payment plan requires a minimum initial payment and sets up automatic payments for the remainder of the balance.

Do you have to pay immediately if you owe taxes?

No, you do not have to pay immediately if you owe taxes. However, the sooner you make payment arrangements with the IRS; the better off your financial situation will be.

It may become easier to manage if you wait too long and accumulate additional interest and penalties on your debt.

What happens if I don't file my taxes?

Please file your taxes to avoid serious consequences. The IRS may assess additional penalties and fees or even bring criminal charges against you for tax evasion if you do not file on time. Making payment arrangements as soon as possible is critical to avoid additional costs.


It's normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed if you owe taxes; however, understanding the different options available to pay your taxes can make the process easier.

As a taxpayer, staying informed and consulting with an experienced tax professional is the best way to ensure you're making informed decisions and taking advantage of any credits or deductions you may be entitled to.

With the right information and guidance, you can learn how to pay off your taxes on time and with minimal stress.

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