No one wants to owe the Internal Revenue Service. Ideally, you’d pay the exact right amount of income taxes and be on your way without a second thought. Or maybe you’d just end up with a surprising but welcome tax refund once you file. But that’s not always what happens.
Sometimes, an unexpected amount of back taxes can pile up. You may know you have a federal tax balance but still wonder, “How much do I owe the IRS?” Don’t wait for those scary IRS notices to find out. We can help you figure it out, using one of four easy methods.
1. Use the IRS’s handy online system
Back in Dec. 2016, the IRS released an online tool for taxpayers. This tool acts as a portal for you to view your account with the IRS. You’ll be able to see your payoff amount, the balance for each tax year that you owe, and up to 24 months of payment history. Your account balance will update no more than once every 24 hours and usually overnight. It’s completely free; all you need to do is register to access your account.
However, there are two catches to using this tool.
The first is that you can only access it during certain times.
- Monday 6:00 a.m. to Saturday 9:00 p.m. ET
- Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to midnight ET
The tool occasionally goes offline during additional hours to allow for maintenance.
The second catch is that you must provide specific information to gain access to the tool, including:
- Social security number or Individual Tax Identification Number
- Date of birth
- Filing status
- Mailing address from your last tax return
- An email address
- A mobile phone
- An account number from a financial account, which could be:
- Credit Card
- Student Loan
- Mortgage or Home Equity Loan
- Home Equity Line of Credit
- Auto Loan
This information is meant to verify your identity, but it can be a pain to rustle it all together.
The IRS will also pull a credit report with this information to ensure you are who you say you are. But this is a soft inquiry, so it won’t impact your credit score and lenders won’t be able to see it.
If you decide to register and use the online portal, you can even use it to pay your taxes online. It’ll take one to three weeks for your payments to show up in the Payment History page.
2. Pick up the phone and call the IRS
Not a big fan of using online tools to deal with your federal taxes? Don’t have all the info you need to access the online service? Don’t worry, you’ve got other options.
Your first option is to give the IRS a call. You may have to deal with a wait time, which averages about 27 minutes during post-filing season. But once you’re connected, a representative from the IRS should be able to tell you how much you owe.
Our suggestion: Call as early in the day as possible to prevent longer hold times.
If you’re an individual taxpayer looking into your balance, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 between 7:00 a.m. and 7 p.m. local time.
Representing a business? Call the IRS at 1-800-829-4933 instead between 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. local time.
3. Fill out a form and drop it in the mail
Another option outside of the online portal is to contact the IRS by sending a form through snail mail.
While this is a viable option for any taxpayer, keep in mind that it will take much longer due to the nature of mail. And if you do owe, penalties and interest will continue to accrue while you wait for a response.
You’ll also want to make sure the IRS has your current address. If they don’t, they’ll send their response (and any other notices) to the most recent address they have on file, which may not be your current one.
Individual taxpayers who filed a Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ can request an Account Transcript. This transcript will only cover a single tax year and might not include any tax penalties, interest, or additional charges.
If you filed another type of form or are representing a business, you’ll need to submit Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return. Once the IRS receives and processes your 4506-T form, they will send you a free transcript.
4. Consult tax debt relief professionals who can figure it out for you
The last option may be the easiest and most hands-free answer to the question, “How much do I owe the IRS?” No need for an online portal, a phone call, or a form in the mail. Instead, you can have someone do that leg work for you.
Tax debt professionals (like CPAs, tax attorneys, and EAs) can work with the IRS on your behalf to find out exactly how much your tax liability is. All you’ll need to do is give them the information they need and kick back while they deal with the IRS for you. And once they find out how much you owe, they can offer you customized solutions.
What to do if you owe the IRS but can’t pay
Once you figure out how much you owe the IRS, your next step is to figure out what to do about it.
If you have money in your bank account to cover your balance, it’s as easy as just paying that payoff amount to the IRS.
But what do you do if you don’t have the money to pay your taxes owed?
The IRS isn’t blind to this problem. They offer solutions for cases like this, which include an installment agreement and Offer in Compromise. Not everyone qualifies for each solution though, so it’s important to find an available option that can offer you some relief.
If you went with the tax debt relief expert route, they’ll be able to walk you through the options available to you and what they would suggest for your unique situation. Our tax pros will even do the heavy lifting to set up a tax resolution that works for you, whether it be a payment plan or an appeal.
If you need back taxes help, reach out for assistance before the tax debt storm comes your way. Liens and garnishment loom on the horizon until you take action to deal with your tax liability. Remember, our tax professionals are only a phone call away.