What Profession Owes the Most Back Taxes?

Sonali Patel
Expert Contributor
Last Updated:

Last Updated on

While U.S. credit card debt and student loans tend to garner publicity, back tax assistance continues to be a massive problem that is overlooked.

Although the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) collects more than $3 trillion annually in taxes, penalties, interest and fees, approximately 16.4% of all federal taxes owed go unpaid.

What Profession Owes the Most Back Taxes?

That may not sound like a high percentage. But it equates to $441 billion in lost revenue for the IRS. The IRS calls this the “average gross tax gap.” Factoring in late payments and successful collection efforts, the net tax gap, or total back taxes owed, drops to $381 billion.

So, who owes all these taxes? Our latest State by State Tax Debt Industry Report reveals some eye-opening truths.

  • Taxpayers aged 51-65 are more likely to carry tax debt than any other age group (48%), and taxpayers age 65 and over represent 26% of cases.
  • Back taxes are not just a problem for lower income taxpayers; it affects all income groups. Sixty-five percent of cases involve households with income less than $75,000 per year, but 34% of cases are for those households with more than $75,000 in income, and 8% are households who take in greater than $125,000.
  • Professional or technical workers carry back taxes more frequently than any other type of worker (15%). Job titles in this category include: pilot, undertaker, analyst, consultant, doctor, professional, programmer, software engineer, tech and technician.

Back Taxes Based on Profession

Analyzing back taxes by profession reveals a suggested correlation with income level, education level and the likelihood of having unpaid back taxes. Nurses, skilled tradespeople and retired folks fall just behind professionals and technical workers, with 12% of these populations each owing back taxes.

Eleven percent of upper management or executives carry tax back taxes, while only 4% of self-employed individuals do. Because tax filings can be more complicated for those who file as self-employed or 1099 contractors, one might expect more back taxes. But that’s not the case. Similarly, real estate professionals are not typically W-2 employees, but only 3% of that demographic carry outstanding back taxes.

Back Taxes Based on Income Levels

It’s important to note that those who earn the least based on our study – independent of education levels or profession – are more likely to owe taxes. The data collected reflects 2019 statistics, with updated tax brackets in effect designed to benefit lower income taxpayers.

Based on IRS tax brackets, only those making less than $9,700 annually fall into the lowest (10%) tax bracket. Those making between $39,476 and $84,999 fall into the third bracket with a 22% tax rate – a big jump from the 12% those making more than $9,700 but less than $39,746 would pay.

With these tax brackets in place since 2018, lower income individuals who fall into the 22% bracket might have back taxes they can’t pay. The second income group, $40,000 to $74,999, isn’t far behind. Thirty-two percent of these taxpayers carry back taxes.

In spite of their higher tax bracket, which could result in larger tax bills, only 8% of those making $125,000 or more owe unpaid back taxes.

How Much Do Taxpayers Owe?

Just how much back taxes do people across the U.S. have?

More than one-third carry less than $7,499 in back taxes. Some back tax assistance firms only work with people who owe more than $10,000 in unpaid taxes, which may leave individuals with smaller amounts of owed amounts on their own to find a solution. Fortunately, the IRS is likely to accept a payment plan for smaller amounts of back taxes.

A majority (55%) owe more than $10,000 in taxes, with 28% owing between $10,000 and $19,999. Just 5% owe more than $1 million. back tax assistance companies can help these folks negotiate an offer in compromise or installment agreement with the IRS.

Back Taxes State by State

Watch the slideshow to discover how your state compares to others when it comes to outstanding back taxes. Who is in debt in your state?

Alaska

  • Alaska reported the highest percentage of back taxes cases in nurses, almost four times the national average with 43% of all cases.
  • In Alaska, 100% of cases involved those ages 51-65.

Alabama

  • In Alabama, 6% of cases affected military personnel — significantly higher than the 2% national average.
  • Forty-two percent of cases affected those with a household income of less than $40,000, and there were very few cases of households with an annual income of $125,000 or more carrying back taxes.

Arkansas

  • Tax debtors in Arkansas on average carried higher back taxes amounts than other states, and had fewer than average cases of low back taxes amounts under $7,500.
  • Eight percent of cases reported their profession as insurance/underwriters, compared to 1% nationally.

Arizona

  • In Arizona, teachers and educators were almost three times more likely to fall into back taxe than around the nation.
  • Arizona showed a lower percentage of cases involving low back taxes amounts, with 39% of cases involving back taxes under $10,000, versus the national average of 46%.
  • Teachers/educators stood out with 8% of cases in the state, compared to the 3% national average.

California

  • Almost half of delinquent taxpayers (48%) in California were between the ages of 51-65.
  • Average household income varied greatly, but 61% of cases reported a household income below $75,000.
  • At 9%, California had the highest percentage of cases affecting real estate agents compared to the 3% national average.

Colorado

  • In Colorado, professional drivers were much more likely to carry back taxes and 6% of cases were attributed to this demographic, compared to just 2% nationally.

Connecticut

  • Back taxes cases in Connecticut skewed toward the professional sector, with 46% of cases affecting professional/technical and upper management/executive roles with a household income greater than $75,000. The national average for these roles was 26% in comparison.

DC

  • In Washington, D.C., cases with low back taxes amounts below $10,000 made up only 29% of all cases. Nationally, 45% of all cases involved back taxes below $10,000.
  • Nine percent of cases involved military personnel, compared to 2% nationally, making it one of the highest for that profession.

Delaware

  • Delaware reported a higher-than-average percentage of cases affecting self-employed individuals, with 11% of cases compared to the 4% national average.
  • Back taxes also skewed toward an older population and 47% of cases affected those over the age of 65.

Florida

  • Back taxes cases in Florida were reflective of the national averages for back taxes amounts, household income and age.
  • Real estate professionals in Florida reported slightly more cases of back taxes than the rest of the nation, with 6% of cases attributed to this group.

Georgia

  • Seventy percent of cases in Georgia affected those with less than $75,000 in income.
  • Back taxes cases in Georgia were reflective of the national averages for back taxes amount, household income and age.

Hawaii

  • Hawaii reported higher than average back taxes amounts, with 16% owing over $50,000 compared to 11% nationally.
  • Thirty-six percent of cases involved back taxes under $10,000, compared to the 45% national average.

Idaho

  • In Idaho, there were no cases of back taxes for anyone under the age of 40.
  • The majority of cases (53%) involved low back taxes amounts under $10,000.
  • Forty-one percent of cases affected households with less than $40,000 in household income.

Iowa

  • Iowa reported a lower than average percentage of cases affecting retirees, clocking in at 4% of all cases.
  • Forty-two percent of cases owed less than $7,500 dollars, compared to 34% nationally.

Illinois

  • In Illinois, back taxes numbers fell in line with national averages.
  • There were slightly more cases of back taxes involving lower back taxes amounts of $7,500 or less, representing 39% of all cases versus 34% nationally.

Indiana

  • Skilled trade/machine laborers were more likely to carry back taxes in Indiana, with 22% of cases reported in these jobs, compared to the 12% national average.
  • Seventy-five percent of cases affected those making $70,000 or less, higher than the 65% national average.

Kansas

  • Kansas had back taxes amounts that were higher than average, with 16% of cases owing more than $50,000, compared to 11% nationally.
  • Kansas also reported a higher-than-average percentage of cases in self-employed individuals, with 11% of all cases and just 4% nationally.

Kentucky

  • People in Kentucky ages 41-50 were most likely to fall into back taxes (30%), but very few cases affected those over 75 (1%).
  • There was a slightly higher percentage of cases (71%) affecting households with less than $75,000 a year; the national average is 66% at that income level.

Louisiana

  • In Louisiana, 44% of cases earned less than $40,000 in household income.
  • Eighteen percent of cases affected those under the age of 40, which was double the national average of 9% for that age range.

Massachusetts

  • Massachusetts had a slightly higher percentage of cases (7%) of high back taxes over $100,000, compared to the national average of just 5%.
  • That mirrored a higher percentage of cases (35%) that showed over $100,000 in household income.

Maryland

  • Maryland had cases higher than average (29%) of back taxes for people with incomes over $100,000, compared to 19% at that income level nationally.
  • Cases involving less than $7,500 in back taxes also fell below the national average, making up only 29% versus 34% nationally.

Maine

  • Maine was the state with the highest percentage of cases affecting women, clocking in at 66% of reported cases.
  • Teachers were almost four times (11%) more likely to carry back taxes than the national average (3%).

Michigan

  • Michigan reported 19% of cases affecting skilled trade/machine laborers compared to 12% nationally.
  • Forty-three percent of cases had household incomes less than $40,000.

Minnesota

  • In Minnesota, only 26% of cases affected those making less than $40,000, lower than the 33% national average.
  • Only 8% of cases represented professional/technical positions.

Missouri

  • Missouri had only 4% of cases affecting those with $125,000 or more in household income, compared to 8% nationally.
  • For back taxes amounts, age and profession, back taxes cases in Missouri fell in line with the national average.

Mississippi

  • Mississippi had few cases (6%) affecting those with incomes higher than $75,000.
  • They also reported low back taxes amounts, with 43% of cases involving amounts under $7,500 and only 5% of cases with over $50,000 in back taxes.

Montana

  • Montana reported the highest percentage of cases affecting self-employed individuals (13%), as well as the highest percentage of cases of back taxes in middle management (19%).
  • Cases in Montana also tended to involve higher owed amounts — only 33% of all cases had less than $10,000 in back taxes, compared to 45% nationally.

North Carolina

  • In North Carolina, self-employed workers were twice as likely to carry back taxes, with 9% of cases attributed to 1099 contractors.
  • Tax debtors were also carrying lower back taxes amounts on average, with only 8% of cases involving high amounts of $50,000-plus, compared to the 11% average.

North Dakota

  • People over the age of 76 were most likely to fall into back taxes in North Dakota than any other state, with 25% of all cases reported. Nationally, those over the age of 76 made up 7% of all cases.
  • Ninety-two percent of back taxes cases affected those over age 50, compared to 74% nationally.
  • North Dakota was also the state with the highest percentage of cases affecting higher-income households making over $125,000. These high-income individuals made up 21% of all cases in the state.

Nebraska

  • Nebraska reported the highest percentage of cases affecting professional drivers –it was 12% of cases, compared to 2% nationally.
  • Nurses in Nebraska were also three times more likely to fall into back tax issues than nurses around the nation, with 36% of cases compared to the national average of 12%.
  • Forty-one percent of people with back taxes in Nebraska carried low amounts owed, below $7,500.

New Hampshire

  • New Hampshire reported the highest percentage of cases affecting beauty professionals, coming in 8% higher than the national average (4%).
  • New Hampshire was also the state with the highest percentage of cases affecting sales/marketing professionals, making up 20% of all cases compared to 8% nationally.
  • Households with $125,000 of income were twice as likely to carry back taxes than around the nation.

New Jersey

  • New Jersey reported that 16% of cases involved $50,000 or more in back taxes, higher than the 11% national average.
  • Households with over $100,000 in annual income made up 35% of cases, compared to 19% nationally.

New Mexico

  • New Mexico was one of the states with the highest percentage (9%) of military personnel carrying back taxes, compared to 2% nationally.
  • Thirty-eight percent of back taxes cases affected those with a household income of less than $40,000, up 4% from the national average.

Nevada

  • Nevada had few cases of low owed amounts, with only 23% of cases compared to 34% nationally.
  • Cases amongst retirees and those ages 66-75 were also up from national levels at 20% and 32%, respectively.

New York

  • New York reported a slightly higher percentage of cases affecting high-income households over $100,000, with 28% of cases. The national average at that income level was 20%.
  • In all other areas, New York’s back taxes cases fell in line with national averages.

Ohio

  • Ohio had fewer cases of high back tax amounts, with only 3% of cases involving back taxes of $100,000 or more compared to the 5% national average.
  • Skilled trade/machine laborers also made up a higher percentage of back taxes cases (18%) than the national average of 12%.

Oklahoma

  • Oklahoma had a higher percentage of cases affecting military personnel, representing 7% of all cases versus 2% of cases nationally.
  • Only 5% of cases affected those making over $125,000, versus 8% nationally.

Oregon

  • Back taxes numbers in Oregon fell in line with national averages in owed amounts, household income and age.
  • Compared to the 12% national average for each profession, Oregon reported a number of cases for skilled trade/machine laborers (16%) and retirees (18%).

Pennsylvania

  • In Pennsylvania, 15% of cases affected those with income over $100,000, versus 20% nationally.
  • Pennsylvania reported a slightly higher percentage of back taxes (20%) in professional/technical positions than the 15% average.

Rhode Island

  • Rhode Island had a much higher percentage of cases (11%) affecting middle management than the rest of the nation (5%).
  • Those with higher incomes over $100,000 were less likely to fall into back taxes, representing 12% of cases, compared to the national average of 19%.

South Carolina

  • South Carolina reported lower owed amounts on average, with only 5% of cases involving back taxes over $50,000, compared to 11% nationally.
  • Those with household incomes lower than $100,000 were also half as likely to carry back taxes compared to national averages.

South Dakota

  • In South Dakota, 45% of cases affected those over the age of 65, more than double the national average.
  • South Dakota was one of the states with the highest percentage of back taxes cases affecting teachers/educators, representing 11% of cases compared to 3% nationally.

Tennessee

  • Forty-three percent of cases affected those making less than $40,000, up 9% from the national average.
  • Twelve percent of cases involved clerical/office workers, compared to 7% in that profession nationwide.

Texas

  • Back taxes cases in Texas fell in line with national averages for owed amount, income, age and profession.

Utah

  • Beauty professionals in Utah represented a higher percentage of cases, coming in at 10%. Nationally, only 4% of cases were attributed to beauty professionals.
  • Only 6% of cases involved back taxes amounts higher than $50,000, nearly half of the national average of 11%.

Virginia

  • Virginia reported 33% of cases affected those with high incomes over $100,000, compared to the 20% average.
  • Ten percent of cases affected those over the age of 76, compared to 7% nationally.

Vermont

  • Vermont was the state with the highest number of cases reported by upper management/executives (20%), compared to the 11% national average.
  • Forty-five percent of cases reported a household income of more than $75,000, which was more than double the national average of 20% at that income level.

Washington

  • Compared to the 5% national average, Washington reported higher-than-average back taxes amounts, with 9% of all cases involving  $100,000 or more in back taxes.
  • Seventeen percent of cases affected retirees, compared to 12% nationally.

Wisconsin

  • Clerical/office workers in Wisconsin were more than twice as likely (15%) to carry back taxes than other states (7%).
  • Sixty-two percent of cases affected those ages 51-65, compared to 48% nationally for the same age range.

West Virginia

  • Eleven percent of cases in West Virginia involved professionals in middle management, compared to 3% nationally.
  • Only 3% of all cases in West Virginia involved extremely high owed amounts over $125,000, compared to 8% nationally.

Wyoming

  • Wyoming cases involved lower back taxes on average, with most cases falling between $10,000 and $20,000. No one reported carrying back taxes over $100,000 in Wyoming.
  • Eight percent of cases reported their profession as insurance/underwriters, compared to just 1% nationally.

 

Conclusion

The Back Tax Industry Report provides insight into who owes back taxes and the amounts owed, broken down by:

  • State
  • Back tax amount
  • Income
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Job type

The Findings

Above all else, the report shows that back taxes spans every profession, generation and income bracket. The reasons people accrue back taxes vary widely.

Those in lower income brackets may not be able to afford professional help from tax accountants to reduce their tax burden. Those in the middle class may find themselves in a higher tax bracket and be unable to pay their back taxes. Retired folks who don’t have withholding taxes from their paycheck may not understand how to reduce their tax liability.

3 Steps You Can Take To Resolve Your Back Taxes

Do you fall into one of the categories of workers with unpaid back taxes? If you’re facing unpaid back taxes, this report shows you’re not alone. Back taxes is a nationwide problem that causes stress and financial hardship. Once you face the problem, you can find help paying off your obligation to avoid tax liens or wage garnishment.

If you don’t seek to resolve your back taxes, the IRS can seize your assets or garnish your wages. It’s important to take action right away, as interest and fees will only continue to accrue. Here are three steps you can take to resolve your back taxes.

Get up to date on your tax filings.

If you failed to file taxes in recent years, the IRS won’t accept any offers to settle outstanding back taxes. Seek professional help to file any outstanding tax returns and to find out where you stand with back taxes. Then you can begin exploring your options for repayment or a tax settlement.

Get professional help.

Often, it pays to seek the advice of a professional back tax assistance company to assist in your negotiations with the IRS. Understand that solutions exist and asking for help can put you on a brighter financial path for the future.

A back tax assistance company can help you:

  • File an offer in compromise
  • Take advantage of the IRS Fresh Start Initiative
  • Seek innocent spouse relief
  • File for “currently not collectible” status
  • Propose an installment agreement or partial-pay installment agreement
  • Stop collections action
  • Get fees and penalties waived

Stick to the terms of your agreement.

If you owe less than $25,000 in back taxes and fulfill other requirements, the IRS may accept an installment agreement. Make sure you have money in your bank account to cover the monthly automatic payments debited by the IRS.

As you make your on-time payments, you can become obligation free in 72 months or sooner.

The Methodology

This report was developed by Solvable in collaboration with GoBankingRates. The dataset comprised 21,404 unique cases of back taxes from Solvable. The back taxes cases reflect a date range from January 1, 2019, through January 31, 2020.  

The total national back taxes figure of $441 billion is data provided by the IRS. There is no exact report on cumulative back taxes from state-based taxes. Solvable conservatively estimates that figure to be roughly around $146 billion. This estimate was found by extrapolating California’s reported 2018 tax gap figure that was between $20-$25 billion to the rest of the U.S. Adding the estimated state-level tax gap to the net federal tax gap of $381 billion makes a total estimated tax gap of $527 billion.