Best Tax Relief Options If I Owe $10,000 to $15,000 to the IRS

By Chris Huntley

Certified Credit Consultant, licensed insurance agent, and former Series 65 Registered Investment Advisor

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Summary: You have two great options to pay back the IRS with $10k-$15k of tax debt; set up a payment plan or get your debt forgiven.  We'll review your best options and odds of settling with the IRS below.

If you have $10,000 to $15,000 of IRS tax debt and aren't sure where to turn, this article is for you.

Most tax debt articles won't give you all your options.

(They just want to pitch a tax relief company!)

This is NOT one of those articles.

Best Options to Get Rid of $10000 to $15000 of IRS Tax Debt

We'll look at all your best options to pause IRS collection activities immediately including applying for debt forgiveness (Offer in Compromise), setting up a payment plan (Installment Plan), bankruptcy, and considerations for doing it yourself (DIY) or seeking help from a tax relief company.

Key sections:

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No Money to Pay the IRS?

Get a free consultation with a tax relief expert to see if you qualify for the Fresh Start.

It's quick, easy, and free.

You're here because you already know about the power of the IRS, their power to garnish wages or file a tax lien on your property, and it's reached the point where you need to act.

You're in the perfect place!

By the end of this article, you'll be able to make a great decision about your next step whether it will be on your own or choosing to hire an expert to help.

The Big Problem Owing $10,000 to $15,000

Here's the brutal truth about having $10,000 to $15,000 of IRS tax debt.

Anyone who accumulates this amount of tax debt must have made some good money along the way.

The IRS' logic says that clearly you can afford to pay your debt.  (They think)

But the truth is they have no idea what's going on in your financial life that makes forking over, say, $13,000 dang near impossible.

Fortunately, there are many options you as a debtor can take to get the IRS off your back and end your tax problems including:

  • Setting up an IRS payment plan
  • Settling your debt for less
  • Use a personal loan or retirement funds
  • Bankruptcy

As we'll see below, bankruptcy will probably not be necessary for most situations, so we'll spend the rest of this article covering payment plans, settling your debt for less, and other ways to pay back the IRS.

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See if you qualify for tax relief.  Get a free consultation with a tax relief expert to see if you qualify today.

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Option 1: Payment Plan with Sample Monthly Payments

It's true that you probably don't have $11,000 or $12,000 laying around to pay back the IRS in a lump sum.

Give yourself a break.  8% of all U.S. taxpayers are delinquent.  You are not alone!

The good news is the IRS allows you to set up a payment plan, known as an Installment Agreement, which you can apply for using IRS Form 9465.

So even if you can't afford a lump sum payment, you may be able to set up a payment plan that you can afford.  The beautiful thing about the installment plan is they let you pay over 72 months (6 years).

Installment Plan Monthly Payments

Here are some sample monthly payments including the qualifications for each and the forms needed.  If you cannot afford these payments, you should skip to the next sections to see your other options.

Amount Owed

*Monthly Payment

Qualification/ Form(s) Needed

Get Help from a Tax Expert




Form 9465




Form 9465




Form 9465




Form 9465




Form 9465




Form 9465

*Monthly payment is an estimate only and does not include up-front application fee.  The IRS accepts a high percentage of installment plan requests, but acceptance is not guaranteed.  We highly recommend you speak to a tax expert from Optima Tax Relief prior to entering into an Installment agreement or if you cannot afford the monthly payments above.

Get a free second opinion!

Please note that interest and penalties can add up fast pushing your balance into a higher category.  For this reason, we have also created a guide for you showing you how to get out of tax debt if you owe $16,000 to $25,000 to the IRS.

Benefits of Setting Up an Installment Agreement:

There are many benefits.

  • Manageable monthly payments
  • Stress relief of getting the IRS off your back
  • Pauses IRS collection attempts

Just be aware that if you enter into an installment agreement and then have difficulty paying them on time, (if you default) the IRS is notorious for demanding the full balance you owe or filing tax liens and IRS levy actions. This may be one reason to try to offer them a lower amount than what you owe them.  (Offer in Compromise)

Quick Tip:

Once you start an installment plan, you will have a harder time qualifying for a debt reduction request later.  We recommend you speak to an expert to see if you qualify for tax relief first.

Qualification and Setup

Acceptance of your installment plan is not guaranteed.  You need to be up to date on all tax filings and other taxes owed, and you must not have already requested an installment agreement in the past 5 years.

Furthermore, if the IRS deems you can pay your taxes, they will not approve the request.

IRS Tax relief If I Owe 10k to 15k Dollars

Fees & Application:

Generally, you will use Form 9465 to apply.

Expect to pay between $31 to $225 in setup fees, depending on whether you set up direct debit from your bank or pay by check, and whether or not you use their online application.

The absolute cheapest way to go is to use online payment agreement (OPA) application at and set up a direct debit, which only costs a one-time $31 setup fee (This could be waived for lower-income applicants).

Who is a Good Candidate for an Installment Plan

First, you sincerely cannot pay the full lump sum.

(There's a difference between "cannot" and "don't want to" pay)!

Whether your tax debt was incurred in the most recent tax year, or you owe years and years of back taxes, even if you've had your wages garnished or the IRS has a tax lien on your property, the installment plan could work for you.

Can You Do It Yourself?

Yes, you absolutely can...

But be very careful!

The IRS is quite picky about their forms being filled out perfectly.  Yes, you can do it on your own, but if you run into any questions along the way or want a second opinion, we recommend you contact our friends at Optima Tax Relief.  They've helped settle millions of dollars in tax debt.

Can You Qualify for Debt Forgiveness If You Owe $10k-$15k to the IRS?

The first thing most people who have over $10,000 in tax debt want to do is see if they can get the debt forgiven.

This can often work!

In fact, in 2018 alone, the IRS accepted 24,000 "Offers in Compromise" amounting to $261.3 million of forgiven debt.

An Offer in Compromise is an offer to settle with the IRS for less than the amount you owe them.

Examples of success:

I browsed through dozens of testimonials from tax relief companies to find these.  Of course there were dozens and dozens I found for a higher starting balance.  Here were a handful I found for $10k to $15k owed.

Initial Amount Owed

Resulting Amount Owed

See Testimonial

Tax Relief Company Used

Eric Owed $15,000


Miguel Owed $11,000


David Owed $15,000

Less than $1,000

Gary Owed $13,000


Please be aware there's no magic to the starting amounts owed above.  Just because you owe $13,000 like Gary, that doesn't mean you'll settle with the IRS for nothing.  Nor does a couple of thousand dollars make a huge difference.  The IRS won't see a $14,000 debt too differently than if you $11,000.  Each individual case is different.

But Will You Qualify?

The Offer in Compromise sounds like a dream come true.

The trick is qualifying.  Beware!  It may not be easy.

For the 24,000 offers the IRS accepted in 2018, the IRS received 59,000 offers.  In other words, they accepted about 41% of the offers.

Absent of special circumstances, the IRS will not accept an Offer in Compromise if they believe you can pay the debt in lump sum or by payment plan.

In each case, they'll consider your:

  • income
  • assets
  • debt
  • and more!

In order to qualify, you must offer the IRS an amount equal or greater to what the IRS calls "the reasonable collection potential." (RCP)

That's a complicated way of saying whatever they can squeak out of you based on your assets such as your home, cars, investments and savings, etc, you need to offer them at least that amount.

The good news?

If you've got little to no assets and/or very heavy debt, there's a good chance your offer will be accepted.  That's why it probably makes no sense to file for Bankruptcy to avoid tax debt.  (If you really can't pay it, you have a good chance of your debt being forgiven anyway!)

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Making an Offer On Your Own VS. Hiring a Tax Relief Company

In order to apply, you must fill out IRS Forms 656, Offer in Compromise, and 433-A, Collection Information Statement for Wage Earners and Self-Employed Individuals, or Form 433-B if you own a business.

There's also an OIC application fee, which the IRS recently increased to $205 effective April 27, 2020.

But be careful doing this on your own!

Here's the problem.

Yes, you are allowed to file the forms on your own, but the forms are long and cumbersome and must be filled out perfectly!

Offer in Compromise Mistakes:

Tax relief expert (and former IRS revenue officer) Jeffrey McNeal says when he processed offers, he saw tons of mistakes made on the forms, even when prepared by CPAs and enrolled agents!

The point is, you may need professional help.

Say, for instance, you owe the IRS $14,000 and submit an Offer in Compromise...  

Other than needing to make sure all the math is right and all fields are filled out properly on Form 433, that's just the starting point.  

Only 41% of submissions get approved so it must be done perfectly to give you the best chances.  If it goes to appeal, you will not only need to fill out a form, but McNeal states that just about the only ones to win their appeals were people who backed up their claims with:

  • The Internal Revenue Code (IRC)
  • The Internal Revenue Manual (IRM)
  • Existing case law

Would you be qualified to reference the above in your appeal for tax relief?

The Internal Revenue Code is a massive amount of IRS documentation made up of over 9,000 sections, while the Internal Revenue Manual is made up of 39 parts (also massive), and we know there are tens of thousands of cases in case law.

Knowing what applies and what doesn’t to an Offer in Compromise would be nearly impossible for a non-professional.

Benefits to Hiring a Tax Relief Company:

You might think the only benefits to using a tax relief company would be to help reduce a balance.  But after reading hundreds of reviews of tax relief companies, we’ve discovered that tax relief companies help Americans in a variety of ways:

  • provide guidance on audits
  • help set up payment agreements with the IRS
  • help get current on any unfilled tax returns 
  • some may be able to stop potential penalties such as wage garnishments

Most importantly, they pause the stress of dealing with the IRS - Typically any case submitted to the IRS takes months (or years) to review.  While waiting for their response, the IRS typically suspends any collection activities, and will often life wage garnishments, as is the case with an Offer in Compromise submission.

Our #1 choice for tax debt relief is Optima Tax Relief.  Click here to set up a free consultation.

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No Money to Pay the IRS?

Get a free consultation with a tax relief expert to see if you qualify for the Fresh Start.

It's quick, easy, and free.

Alternative Ways to Pay the IRS

It might be cheaper for you to pay back the IRS using one of the following:

  • borrow from a retirement account (401k or IRA)
  • borrow from your home equity (such as a HELOC)
  • get a personal loan

Here are the rules for borrowing from your 401k, and you'd need to speak to a mortgage broker to find out about taking out equity if you own a home.

For personal loans, we recommend you visit Lending Tree.  They could save you thousands in interest and fees, and help get you a low monthly payment to get the IRS off your back.

Conclusion - Seek Help!

There are many things in life you can do on your own, but we would not recommend tangling with the IRS or your State when it comes back taxes.  If you owe $10,000 to $15,000 in taxes, we recommend you visit Optima Tax Relief to get free advice and find out your best course of action, and see if they can improve your chances of a successful tax resolution.  Good luck!

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