Offer in Compromise

The granted Offer In Compromise is generally the most desireable resolution of an IRS debt short of reversing the assessment itself, for many reasons.  The most popular benefit of the OIC is the opportunity to settle your debt for less than the full amount you owe. Other benefits include favorable lien treatment and temporary abatement of enforcement.

The underlying principle of the OIC is an inability to pay the back taxes.   This relatively simple concept becomes quite complicated in practice, however.  The IRS’ evaluation of a taxpayer’s ability to pay involves the analysis of the taxpayer’s assets, projected income and expenses.  Because of the variety of different ways that taxpayers make and spend money, and the incredible variety of different kinds of assets, the process for evaluating this simple principle becomes convoluted.  Add to the complexity of the evaluation the challenge of administering this highly desireable program, and the IRS OIC program has acquired some unfortunate drawbacks.

For one, many Offers fail for procedural and substantive reasons that would not be anticipated by the layperson or even most inexperienced professionals. (The submission of OIC causes the issuance of a lien in many cases.) An OIC is more complicated than your average in-office examination.  Second, the Offer tolls (stops) the clock on the Collections Statute Expiration Date (sometimes called the “Statute of Limitations”) for a debt, so a failed offer extends the collections period by the length of time that the Offer is pending.  Third, Offers take anywhere from a few months to more than a year, depending on the underlying financial issues, the nature of the taxpayer and the level of appeal required.  So, even if someone qualifies for an OIC on paper, it may be a strategic misstep to submit one.

Ultimately, the decision to submit an OIC needs to consider the viability of the Offer, the relative value of the savings, the lien treatment, the enforcement effects, the work required, the costs of deposits and fees, and the viability of other Resolution plans.  It remains a highly desirable Resolution, however, so should be considered in every situation where there are outstanding taxes owed.