April 18 is around the corner, and by now you probably know if you can afford your tax bill. For those with years of unpaid taxes, though, it may seem impossible to come up with the total you owe. But if you’re eligible for the Offer in Compromise program, you may not have to pay the full amount.
Before you get excited at the prospect of trimming down your debt, you should first figure out if you qualify. There really isn’t a base amount of unpaid tax bills you need before you can consider either the federal program or the New York State equivalent. But once you have an understanding of the process, you may only want to apply if it’s a significant amount—say upwards of $10,000. Your age, assets, income and expenses will all be taken into consideration, and you need to be current in your tax filings, too. For the best chance at striking a deal with Uncle Sam, though, you’ll need a good CPA to help you usher your application through—like Steven Zelin.
“The Offer in Compromise program can be very complicated for independent taxpayers to understand,” says Zelin. “It helps to work with an experienced professional to present your situation as completely and accurately as possible and to make sure the best picture is presented for you.” It will also speed up your application time. “If they submit an incomplete package, the IRS may ask for additional documents, which will drag out the process.”
One of Zelin’s recent successes with this program was on behalf of his client Trevor O’Shea, whose name has been changed to protect his privacy. Zelin helped O’Shea get out of a mountain of debt after his divorce and his company disbanded. “Trauma sets you up to not pay attention to the details of your life,” said O’Shea, and his finances were one of the many details he let slip. He owed roughly $150,000 in taxes, an amount he was not going to be able to ultimately repay given his assets and his time left in the workforce.
“I knew you could make a deal, but I didn’t know how to make that deal,” said O’Shea.
Not only was Zelin the only accountant willing to take on his case, he was a bit of a Jedi master at navigating the process. “He was almost like Obi-Wan Kenobi,” said O’Shea, in his unflappable guidance. “He used humor and they [the IRS] became human on the other end of the phone.”
Zelin may be funny—he has a penchant placing jokey songs like “It’s the most deductible time of the year” in his holiday cards, which has earned him the nickname, the “Singing CPA”—but he does not take his client’s finances lightly. Case in point: he lowered O’Shea’s tax burden by $120,000.
Afterward, said Zelin, “I felt really great. He worked hard, we worked hard and now he’s able to get a fresh start. There’s nothing better than helping someone achieve their goal.”
Get in touch with Steven Zelin, whether you need help catching up with taxes, or staying on top of them.