Fresh Start Tax Relief Deadline Looms

The Tax Penalty Relief provisions of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Fresh Start Tax Relief programs announced earlier this year, have a crucial deadline of October 15, 2012, next Monday. The IRS announced earlier in the year new penalty relief for the unemployed on failure-to-pay penalties, which are one of the biggest penalties a financially distressed taxpayer faces on an IRS tax bill.

To assist those most in need, a six-month grace period on failure-to-pay penalties was made available to certain wage earners and self-employed individuals. The request for an extension of time to pay will result in relief from the failure to pay penalty for tax year 2011 only if the tax, interest and any other penalties are fully paid by October 15, 2012.

The penalty relief is available to two categories of taxpayers:

  • Wage earners who have been unemployed at least 30 consecutive days during 2011 or in 2012 up to the April 17 deadline for filing a federal tax return earlier this year.
  • Self-employed individuals who experienced a 25 percent or greater reduction in business income in 2011 due to the economy.

This specific penalty relief is subject to income limits. A taxpayer’s income must not exceed $200,000 if he or she files as married filing jointly or not exceed $100,000 if he or she files as single or head of household. This penalty relief is also restricted to taxpayers whose calendar year 2011 balance due does not exceed $50,000.

The failure-to-pay penalty is generally half of 1 percent per month with an upper limit of 25 percent. Under this new relief, taxpayers can avoid that penalty until next Monday, October 15, 2012. However, the IRS is still legally required to charge interest on unpaid back taxes and does not have the authority to waive this charge, which is currently 3 percent on an annual basis.