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IRS interest rates increased as of April 1, 2018. If you are making installment payments on a past-due tax balance, these new rates were assessed on a quarterly basis, beginning the second quarter of this year.
IRS interest rates are tied to the Federal Reserve interest rates, which have also increased over the past several years. The IRS uses the Reserve’s short-term interest rates rounded to the nearest percentage point, plus 2 percentage points for corporate taxpayers and 3 percentage rates for noncorporate taxpayers. The updated interest rates are as follows:
These rates compound daily and are assessed quarterly. According to the Motley Fool, an individual back taxes of $10,000 will accrue a daily interest of $1.37 until it is paid. If it takes you a year to pay the amount due, you will ultimately pay the IRS $10,500.05. Underpayment rates, which are updated each quarter, are published by the IRS.
Since the April 2018 increase, IRS interest rates have remained the same through the fourth quarter of 2018. In November 2018, the Federal Reserve announced that the current benchmark interest rate of 2% would be increased to 2.25% for the upcoming quarter. An increase in IRS interest rates for 2019 is likely to follow.
The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States. Since 1977, this bank has been responsible for establishing market conditions that create jobs and keep consumer prices stable as dictated by Congress. When interest rates are increased by the Reserve, it is seen as a show of confidence in the U.S. economy.
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The Federal Reserve interest rates determine not only IRS interest rates but also the rates consumers receive for mortgage loans, credit cards, and other types of funding. CNN Business reported that two more rate increases are expected in 2019, which will bring rates up to 3%, and at least one increase in 2020 to bring rates to 3.5%.
Although customers receive a higher interest rate on savings when the federal rate increases, they will also pay more for financing and for IRS penalties where applicable. If you can afford to pay off your IRS back taxes, it makes sense to do so as soon as possible, before new rate increases take effect. It also makes sense to pay off credit card bills. Those in the market for a new car or a new home may want to act sooner rather than later to take advantage of lower rates.
The interest rate on past-due taxes is assessed in addition to penalties for late payments. These include:
If you owe taxes and have not filed your return, you will only be charged the 5% monthly penalty, not 5.5%. If you have not filed your taxes but do not owe any money to the IRS for the return in question, you will not be penalized.
Late filing also carries a minimum penalty of either $200 or 100% of the past-due tax balance (whichever amount is less).
Although filing an extension gives you an additional six months to file your tax return, interest will continue to accrue during this time. However, you will not be charged penalties during this grace period.
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If you can prove your failure to file or pay your return has a reasonable explanation, the IRS may agree to waive penalties. You’ll still be responsible for the interest, however.
You may not be penalized for a tax underpayment if:
When you get hired for a new job, your employer will require you to fill out IRS Form W-4. This information is used to determine the correct amount of withholdings. When you file your annual tax return, if the amount withheld exceeds your calculated tax liability, you’ll receive a refund from the IRS.
On the other hand, if the taxes withheld from your checks are insufficient to cover your tax liability, you’ll have to pay the balance. If you are unable to do so by the deadline, you will be required to pay penalties and interest as a percentage of the past-due balance amount.
If you are a freelancer, you must make estimated quarterly tax payments, which are typically based on the taxes assessed for the previous year. Failing to make these payments can also result in underpayment.
Assessing your tax liability before it is due is the best way to avoid underpaying the IRS. You can also submit a new W-4 to your employer to increase the amount of your withholdings, which may result in a refund when you file your tax return. Use the IRS withholdings calculator to determine the correct percentage of your salary to withhold.
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When you do pay your taxes, make sure your payments are properly credited to avoid erroneous interest and penalties. The most convenient and straightforward way to do this is by simply using the IRS Electronic Payment system, which allows you to apply your payment to a specific balance.
If you opt to send a payment through the mail, be sure to take the following steps for proper payment credit:
Keep in mind that when you make a payment toward your back taxes, the money will first be applied to the past-due tax, then to penalties, and then to interest.
If you can show that you missed your tax filing or payment deadline with reasonable cause, and willful neglect is not present, the IRS may agree to waive certain charges. However, this usually applies only to penalties and not to interest. To request a waiver of penalties, you can visit your local IRS service center along with the bill and your explanation for the missed deadline, or you can call 800-829-1040.
In addition, the regular deadlines may not apply to your tax return and payment if you are a member of the Armed Forces currently serving in a contingency operation or combat, if you are a U.S. citizen working abroad, or if you were involved in a natural disaster. Even in these cases, you must review your IRS notices and bills and follow the instructions provided or ask for assistance when needed.
In general, you must pay past-due tax, interest, and penalties in full before requesting a waiver of penalties (which will then be granted as a refund).
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Because the new Tax Code and Jobs Act adjusted withholding tables to provide employees with more take-home pay, some individuals may find they owe more than expected at tax time. For this reason, President Trump requested in November 2018 that the IRS waive underpayment penalties for these taxpayers.
This is most likely to impact working married couples with no children or whose children are older than 17, those from states with high taxes that have limited state and local deductions to $10,000, and those with substantial expenses that are no longer reimbursable. The latter category includes employment costs such as continuing education and mileage, estate planning expenses, and financial and tax advisory costs.
If you have underpaid your taxes, the IRS will send you Form 2210, which compares the total amount you owe to the amount withheld from your paychecks.
To avoid an underpayment, check your withholdings to make sure your employer is taking enough taxes out of your paycheck to meet your quarterly taxes. If this amount doesn’t meet your tax obligations, you will receive a smaller refund or may owe more taxes than expected.
If you previously itemized deductions and will no longer do so under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, you may want to increase your withholdings. This also holds true for taxpayers who have dependents. If you are retired, you can arrange to have your taxes withheld from your pension or Social Security payment. Although it is too late for your withholdings updates to impact 2018, if you owe, you can make the adjustment for 2019.
When your withheld taxes exceed your tax liability, the IRS will send you a refund. If this is not received within 45 days of the tax deadline for that year, you may be eligible for 5% interest. This means if your refund is $500, the IRS will send you $525 if the refund is late.
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The IRS may also pay interest if they assess and amend your return for a higher tax amount in error.
If your tax bill is higher than you can afford to pay, you do have options. Paying as much as possible as soon as possible can help you minimize interest and penalties. Other steps you can take include:
Because failure to file penalties is much more expensive than failure to pay penalties, it’s important to file your taxes even if you don’t think you’ll be able to pay what you owe. The IRS will attempt to collect your unpaid back taxes even if you don’t file a return. In extreme cases, a federal tax lien can be placed on your house, car, or other property. This means the IRS has a legal claim to your property until the taxes are paid in full. Liens can also be levied against bank accounts and future wages.
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