As part of the annual Dirty Dozen tax scams series, the Internal Revenue Service today renewed a warning about so-called Offer in Compromise “mills” that often mislead taxpayers into believing they can settle a tax debt for pennies on the dollar.
The IRS continues to see instances of heavily advertised promises offering to settle taxpayer debt at steep discounts. The IRS sees many situations where taxpayers don’t meet the technical requirements for an offer, but they had to face excessive fees from promoters for information they can easily obtain themselves.
Offer in Compromise mills highlight day nine of the Dirty Dozen series. Offers in Compromise are an important program to help people who can’t pay to settle their federal tax debts. But “mills” can aggressively promote Offers in Compromise in misleading ways to people who clearly don’t meet the qualifications, frequently costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.
A taxpayer can check their eligibility for free using the IRS’s Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool.
“Too often, we see some unscrupulous promoters mislead taxpayers into thinking they can magically get rid of a tax debt,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “This is a legitimate IRS program, but there are specific requirements for people to qualify. People desperate for help can make a costly mistake if they clearly don’t qualify for the program. Before using an aggressive promoter, we encourage people to review readily available IRS resources to help resolve a tax debt on their own without facing hefty fees.”
The Dirty Dozen is an annual IRS list of 12 scams and schemes that put taxpayers and the tax professional community at risk of losing money, personal data and more. Some items on the list are new and some make a return visit. While the list is not a legal document or a formal listing of agency enforcement priorities, it is intended to alert taxpayers, businesses and tax preparers about scams at large.
Working together as the Security Summit, the IRS, state tax agencies and the nation’s tax industry have taken numerous steps to warn people about common scams and schemes during tax season and beyond. The Security Summit initiative is committed to protecting taxpayers, businesses and the tax system from scammers and identity thieves.
Watch to watch out for: Offer in Compromise mills
An Offer in Compromise (OIC) is when the taxpayer works with the IRS to settle a tax debt for less than the full amount owed. It is an option for those unable to pay the full tax liability or if doing so creates a financial hardship. The IRS takes in consideration each unique set of facts and circumstances. This agreement can happen directly between the taxpayer and the IRS without a third party.
An Offer in Compromise “mill” will usually make outlandish claims, frequently in radio and TV ads, about how they can settle a person’s tax debt for cheap. In reality, the promoter fees are often excessive, and taxpayers pay the OIC mill to get the same deal they could have received on their own by working directly with the IRS. This takes unnecessary money out of the taxpayer’s wallet.
In addition, not every taxpayer will qualify for an OIC. Some promoters knowingly advise indebted taxpayers to file an OIC application even though the promoters know the person will not qualify, costing honest taxpayers money and time.
The IRS urges people to take a few minutes to review information on IRS.gov to see if they might be a good candidate for the OIC program – and avoid costly promoters. As a first step, a taxpayer can check their OIC eligibility for free using the IRS’s Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool. And the IRS reminds taxpayers about the First Time Penalty Abatement policy, where taxpayers can go directly to the IRS for administrative relief from a penalty that would otherwise be added to their tax debt.
Make a difference: Report fraud, scams and schemes
As part of the Dirty Dozen awareness effort, the IRS encourages people to report individuals who promote improper and abusive tax schemes as well as tax return preparers who deliberately prepare improper returns.
To report an abusive tax scheme or a tax return preparer, people should mail or fax a completed Form 14242, Report Suspected Abusive Tax Promotions or Preparers and any supporting material to the IRS Lead Development Center in the Office of Promoter Investigations.
Internal Revenue Service Lead Development Center
24000 Avila Road
Laguna Niguel, California 92677-3405
Alternatively, taxpayers and tax practitioners may send the information to the IRS Whistleblower Office for possible monetary reward. For more information, see Abusive Tax Schemes and Abusive Tax Return Preparers.