And it is not as easy as you might think to get the IRS to disregard (or “abate”) the penalties. The IRS will consider penalty abatements if the taxpayer is able to show reasonable cause; however, this is a pretty high standard when it comes to tax obligations. Reasonable cause exists when the taxpayer exercised ordinary business care, but still failed to comply with their tax obligation (i.e., usually filing and/or paying late).
In its analysis of “ordinary business care” the IRS is supposed to weigh all applicable facts and circumstances, including the following:
- taxpayer’s reason for non-compliance
- compliance history
- length of time
- circumstances beyond taxpayer’s control
Death, serious illness, and natural disasters are typically some of the strongest “excuses” for building a penalty abatement case. Forgetfulness is almost always a losing argument. Most of the time it makes more sense to seek tax relief through other channels because penalty abatement is often a dead end road.