5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Paying Tax Debt in Installments


Navigating the complexities of tax debt can be daunting for many individuals and businesses. Opting for an installment plan with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is a practical solution for those who cannot fully pay their tax debt. However, this seemingly straightforward process is rife with potential missteps. This guide will explore five common mistakes taxpayers should avoid when paying tax debt in installments. Steering clear of these errors can save you from unnecessary financial strain and legal complications.

Tax Law Advocate’s expertise can be invaluable in this process, offering guidance and support to ensure your tax debt repayment journey is as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Mistake #1: Underestimating the Total Amount Owed

One of the critical errors many taxpayers make is not accurately calculating the total amount they owe in terms of tax debt relief. This total includes the principal tax amount, accrued interest, and penalties. Misjudging the amount can lead to insufficient installment payments, which might result in additional penalties or even a default on the installment agreement. It’s essential to get a complete understanding of your total debt before setting up a payment plan.

Mistake #2: Ignoring IRS Notices and Deadlines

Ignoring communication from the IRS, such as notices or deadlines, is a serious mistake. The IRS sends notices for a reason – to keep you informed about your tax situation and what actions you need to take. Overlooking these notices can lead to missed deadlines, increased penalties, and more significant issues. Always respond promptly to IRS communications and seek professional advice if unsure how to proceed.

Mistake #3: Failing to Adjust Budget and Spending

Entering an installment agreement requires a commitment to regular payments over a period. This commitment often necessitates adjustments in your budget and spending habits. Failing to make these adjustments can lead to financial strain, making it challenging to keep up with the installment payments. Reviewing your finances, cutting unnecessary expenses, and ensuring that your budget accommodates your tax debt repayment plan is crucial.

Mistake #4: Not Considering Other Payment Options

While an installment plan might seem the most viable option, it’s not always the best one for everyone. Other payment methods, such as an Offer in Compromise or temporarily delaying the collection by declaring financial hardship, might be more suitable in certain situations.

An Offer in Compromise allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount you owe. This is a viable option if you demonstrate that paying the full amount would cause financial hardship or if there’s doubt as to the accuracy of the tax debt. However, it’s important to note that the IRS accepts only a small fraction of these offers, so it’s crucial to present a compelling case.

Alternatively, if you’re facing temporary financial hardship, the IRS may agree to delay collection until your financial situation improves. Your tax debt will continue to accrue penalties and interest during this period, so it should be considered a short-term solution.

Mistake #5: Handling Complex Tax Issues Without Professional Help

Dealing with tax debt, especially in substantial amounts, can be complex and overwhelming. Attempting to navigate this process without professional help can lead to errors and missteps.

Tax professionals, like those at Tax Law Advocates, have the expertise and experience to guide you through the process. They can help negotiate with the IRS, ensure that you choose the most beneficial payment plan, and even assist in filing for an Offer in Compromise or requesting a temporary delay in collection if these options suit your situation.

Furthermore, tax laws and regulations are constantly changing. Professionals stay updated on these changes and understand how they can impact your case. They can also handle communication with the IRS on your behalf, reducing your stress and time commitment.


Paying off tax debt in installments can be a manageable way to handle financial obligations to the IRS. However, it’s crucial to approach this process with caution and awareness of common pitfalls. By avoiding these five mistakes – underestimating the total debt, ignoring IRS notices, failing to adjust your budget, not considering other payment options, and handling complex issues without professional help – you can ensure a more successful and less stressful resolution to your tax debt. Remember, seeking guidance from tax resolution experts can ease the burden and guide you toward financial stability.