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What is the Fresh Start Program?

Launched in 2011, the IRS Fresh Start Program seeks to assist taxpayers in paying back taxes and avoiding liens on their property. Combining and expanding several alternative payment options laid out in The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, the Fresh Start Program offers tax relief in three ways: treating tax liens, handling installment payments, and evaluating and handling offers in compromise.

Tax Liens

The first thing the Fresh Start Program did for taxpayers was increase the debt threshold that triggers a federal tax lien. Originally, owing as little as $5,000 to the government put you at risk for receiving a lien on your property and/or assets. Now, with Fresh Start, you have to owe $10,000 or more before the IRS will enforce a tax lien. It is also now easier for individuals to have a tax lien withdrawn when making solid efforts to repay their tax debt.

Installment Payments

Another big way the Fresh Start Program helps taxpayers is that it made it easier and smoother for individuals who had defaulted on their taxes to set up an installment payment agreement with the IRS. For instance, taxpayers can set up installment agreements for up to $50,000 of debt for up to 72 months online without having to provide financial statements. (Note: If you do owe more than $50,000 in back taxes, there are still installment agreements available. You will, however, have to provide very detailed financial information for review.)

Offers in Compromise

One of the most sought-after forms of governmental tax relief, offers in compromise (OIC), were created through the IRS restructuring in 1998. Though still not the easiest to qualify for, the Fresh Start Program was able to expand and streamline employee and taxpayer efforts within the OIC program. One of the most impactful changes within the program is that the IRS will now only consider the next 12 to 24 months of income – instead of the next four or five years – when assessing OIC eligibility and calculating the minimum settlement offer in compromise it will accept.

If you think you qualify for the tax relief programs under the Fresh Start Program, or would like to learn more about the application process for each, give our experts at Tax Help Network a call to examine your particular case and help you get your life back on track.