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Published:   |   Last Updated: October 24, 2023

Offer in Compromise

If you can’t pay your tax debt in full, or if paying it all will create a financial hardship for you, an offer in compromise (OIC) may be an option.

What do I need to know?

The offer in compromise process can be lengthy. Keep close track of the dates — if the IRS doesn’t reject, return, or you withdraw your offer within two years of the date the IRS receives it, then the offer is deemed accepted.

Submitting an offer doesn’t guarantee the IRS will accept your offer. It starts the process of evaluating your situation, your ability to pay, and the amount you’re offering. You can submit an offer on taxes owed individually and for your business.

Here are the main reasons the IRS may agree to accept less than the full amount you owe:

  • Doubt as to Collectability: This means you don’t have enough income or assets to pay your balance due in full.
  • Effective Tax Administration: You can pay all your balance due, but it would create an economic hardship, or would be unfair or inequitable.

Another reason the IRS may accept payment of less than the full amount you owe is doubt as to liability (that is, you don’t believe you owe the tax, or you don’t believe the amount is correct).

NOTE: You can’t submit an offer if your debt has been established by a final court decisionOnce the court determines its findings and conclusions, the decision becomes final 90 days after entered unless there is an appeal. or judgment about the tax or the amount.

If you owe the amount and it is correct:

Offer Payment Options

There are two kinds of payment options for an offer — you must select one of them and include payment with your offer. The amount of the first and following payments will depend on the total amount you offer and which payment option you choose.

  • Lump Sum Offer: Generally, you’ll be required to pay 20 percent of the total amount you’re offering when you submit the offer. You’ll need to pay the rest in five or fewer payments, within five or fewer months of the date the IRS accepts the offer.
  • Periodic Payment Offer: Generally, you’ll make the first payment when you submit the offer and the rest within 24 months, according to the terms of your offer.

For the IRS to accept an offer, you must file all tax returns due and be current with estimated tax payments or withholding. If you own a business and have employees, you must file all returns and be current on all your federal tax deposits.

NOTE: If you or your business is currently in an open bankruptcyA taxpayer files a petition in bankruptcy court. Insolvency is the inability to pay a debt as it becomes due. proceeding, you’re not eligible to apply for an offer. Any resolution of your debts generally must take place within the context of your bankruptcy proceeding.

After the IRS notifies you it has accepted your offer and you pay the reduced amount you’ve agreed to, your entire tax debt is resolved if you fulfill the terms of the offer agreement.

If the IRS rejects your offer, it won’t return the application fee or any other payments you made with the offer. The IRS will apply the non-refundable fee and payments to your tax liability. You have the right to appeal, if the IRS rejects your offer. For more possible outcomes, see the How will this affect me? section below.



What should I do?

Review the tax debt to make sure you owe it.

If you feel you don’t owe the tax or the amount is incorrect

If the tax you owe is from an audit you didn’t know about or weren’t able to present any information for, you might be able to get an audit reconsideration. If you made a mistake on your return, filing an amended return may remove the debt. Most options are easier and less time consuming than submitting an offer, so it’s worth seeing if there is anything else you can do to resolve the debt before filing an offer.

If you’ve exhausted other options, and you think an offer is the best action, you can submit Form 656L, Offer in Compromise (Doubt as to Liability). You should include a written statement explaining in detail why you believe the IRS is in error and attach supporting documentation. There is no application fee for this type of offer, but you must offer more than zero dollars.

If you agree you owe the tax and you decide to submit an offer, you’ll need to give the IRS complete financial information. Make a list of your income, expenses, assets and any debts owed against those assets. Follow the instructions in Form 656B Booklet, Offer in Compromise Bookletto prepare and file your offer.


How will this affect me?

Before you decide to submit an Offer in Compromise (offer), you should be aware of several things.

Submitting an offer doesn’t guarantee the IRS will accept your offer. It starts the process of evaluating your situation, your ability to pay, and the amount you’re offering. You can submit an offer on taxes owed individually and for your business.

You’ll have to pay an application fee of $205 and make offer payments (based on the method you choose) with your offer submission, unless you meet certain low-income guidelines, which are in the IRS OIC Booklet.

Your offer may not be processable

The IRS will use the criteria below to determine if it can process and investigate your offer. If the offer meets one of the criteria, the IRS won’t process your offer and will return it to you. The IRS will send you a letter explaining why it could not process your offer and will return your application fee. Any payments you submitted with your offer will also be returned, except for criteria numbers five, six and seven. Under criteria five, six and seven  any offer payments will be applied to the amount you owe.

The IRS will not process your offer if:

  1. You are currently in bankruptcy.
  2. Your case is in the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice.
  3. You don’t have a balance due.
  4. The IRS can’t enforce your tax debts because the time the IRS has to collect has expired. You are not current with estimated tax payments or if you own a business and have employees you are not current with federal tax deposits for the current quarter and the prior two quarters.
  5. You have past due federal tax returns.
  6. You did not make both the application fee and the required initial payment.

After the IRS processes your offer

If the IRS processes but closes your offer without accepting it, it will not return your application fee or any other payments you made with the offer. The IRS will apply these non-refundable fees and payments to the amount you owe.

The IRS usually has ten years from the date of assessment to collect a tax debt. However, filing an offer will extend the time the IRS has to collect all your debt.

While the IRS generally puts other collection activities (such as a levy on your wages or bank account) on hold while your offer is pending, the IRS may still file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien to protect its lien interest in any property you own and to notify other creditors of that interest. You have the right to appeal any lien or levy collection actions.  Please refer to the What are my Rights? section below.

The IRS will keep any refund, including interest, for tax periods extending through the date that the IRS accepts your offer.

The IRS is required to explain how it calculates your ability to pay and how much it could potentially collect from you. You’ll receive correspondence and be able to contact the offer examiner or specialist assigned to you.

If the IRS rejects your offer

If the IRS rejects your offer, you have the right to appeal the rejection, but must do so within 30 days of the date of the IRS’s rejection letter. To appeal a rejection, use IRS Form 13711, Request for Appeal of Offer in Compromise.

If the IRS accepts your offer

If the IRS accepts your offer, you’ll need to abide by the terms you agreed to and stay current with filing and paying your taxes for five years after that.

If the IRS returns your offer

The IRS may return your offer after it is processed, if you don’t timely file your tax returns, make estimated tax payments, properly adjust your tax withholding or make federal tax deposits. In addition, the IRS may return your offer, if your application fee or offer payment is dishonored, or if you don’t provide information the IRS requested. If the offer is returned, you won’t be able to an appeal. However, IRS will send you a notice providing you 30 days from the date of the notice to respond to the IRS asking for reconsideration of the decision to return the offer.

Make sure you don’t owe taxes next year

If the IRS accepts your offer but you don’t file and pay all taxes on time for the five years after the acceptance, the IRS will notify you your offer is in default and may terminate the offer and you’ll owe your full debt (not the reduced amount of the offer).

Here are some ways to make sure you can pay your taxes

    • New Tax Reform implementation changed the way the IRS calculates your federal tax. The IRS encourages everyone to perform a quick “paycheck checkup” to ensure you have the right amount withheld.
    • You may use the IRS withholding calculator to figure your federal income tax and withholding. The withholding calculator is a tool on IRS.gov designed to help you determine how to have the right amount of tax withheld from your paychecks.
  • Increase the amount of estimated taxes you pay.

Wait, I still need help.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers and protects taxpayers’ rights. We can offer you help if your tax problem is causing a financial difficulty, you’ve tried and been unable to resolve your issue with the IRS, or you believe an IRS system, process, or procedure just isn’t working as it should. If you qualify for our assistance, which is always free, we will do everything possible to help you.

Visit www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov or call 1-877-777-4778.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) are independent from the IRS and TAS. LITCs represent individuals whose income is below a certain level and who need to resolve tax problems with the IRS. LITCs can represent taxpayers in audits, appeals, and tax collection disputes before the IRS and in court. In addition, LITCs can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language. Services are offered for free or a small fee. For more information or to find an LITC near you, see the LITC page on the TAS website or Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List.

Resources and Guidance

Internal Revenue Manual (IRM)

IRM, The Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005

Learn more

Did you know there is a Taxpayer Bill of Rights?

The taxpayer Bill of Rights is grouped into 10 easy to understand categories outlining the taxpayer rights and protections embedded in the tax code.

It is also what guides the advocacy work we do for taxpayers.

Read more about your rights