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Penalty Abatements

Facing IRS penalties can be a daunting experience, especially when circumstances beyond your control have led to these financial burdens. However, the IRS provides avenues for requesting the removal of these penalties, offering a chance to mitigate the financial impact. In this extended discussion, we will explore the various types of IRS penalties, when they are assessed, the process for requesting penalty abatements, and how having professional representation from a tax attorney or enrolled agent can significantly assist in this process. 


Understanding IRS Penalties: 

The IRS can assess various penalties under different circumstances, and these penalties can add up quickly. Below are a few of the different types of penalties the IRS can assess: 

  1. Failure to Pay Penalty

Purpose: The Failure to Pay Penalty is assessed when a taxpayer doesn’t pay their tax liability by the due date. Its purpose is to encourage timely payment of taxes owed. 

Penalty Rate: Typically, this penalty accrues at a rate of 0.5% of the unpaid tax amount per month, with a maximum of 25% of the total tax due. 

  1. Failure to File Penalty

Purpose: The Failure to File Penalty is imposed when a taxpayer doesn’t file their tax return by the due date or an extension date. Its goal is to incentivize timely filing. 

Penalty Rate: The penalty accrues at a higher rate than the Failure to Pay Penalty—usually 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month the return is late, up to a maximum of 25%. 

  1. Underpayment of Estimated Tax Penalty

Purpose: The Underpayment of Estimated Tax Penalty is designed to ensure that taxpayers who owe taxes make regular payments throughout the year rather than waiting until the filing deadline. 

Penalty Rate: The rate varies, but it’s often determined based on the federal short-term interest rate plus 3%. This penalty is calculated separately for each quarterly payment. 

  1. Underreporting or Accuracy-Related Penalties

Purpose: These penalties target inaccuracies in tax returns, such as underreporting income, overstating deductions, or negligence in reporting. Their purpose is to promote accurate and honest reporting. 

Penalty Rate: Underreporting penalties can be substantial, generally calculated as a percentage (usually 20% but can go higher) of the underpaid tax resulting from the inaccurate information. 

The Abatement Process: 

Understanding the types of penalties and when they are assessed is essential to the strategy of securing an abatement. Below are two different ways that you can qualify for penalties to be removed: 


First Time Penalty Abatement (FTA): 

  • Eligibility Criteria: First Time Abatement is available to taxpayers who meet specific criteria. To qualify, you must have a clean compliance history, meaning you haven’t incurred any significant penalties (such as the accuracy-related penalty or the late payment penalty) for the three tax years before the tax year in which you’re requesting FTA. 
  • Frequency: Despite the title suggesting it’s a one-time opportunity, this type of abatement can be used more than once. Taxpayers can request FTA for a penalty assessment that meets the eligibility criteria for each tax year where they qualify – at a maximum of once every 4 years. 
  • Application Process: Requesting FTA can be relatively straightforward. You can often request it by contacting the IRS over the phone or through a written request. The IRS will review your compliance history to determine if you meet the criteria. 

Reasonable Cause Penalty Abatement: 

  • Eligibility Criteria: Reasonable cause penalty abatement is available to taxpayers who can demonstrate that they had reasonable cause for failing to comply with tax obligations and that they acted in good faith. Reasonable cause could include factors like illness, natural disasters, or reliance on incorrect professional advice. 
  • Frequency: There are no specific limits on how many times you can request reasonable cause penalty abatement. It can be used whenever a taxpayer believes they have a valid reasonable cause for a penalty. 
  • Application Process: Requesting reasonable cause penalty abatement is more involved than FTA. Taxpayers need to provide a detailed written explanation of the circumstances that led to the penalty. Supporting documentation may also be required, such as medical records or affidavits from professionals. 

The Role of Professional Representation: 

Professional representation by tax attorneys or enrolled agents is instrumental when dealing with IRS penalties and requesting penalty abatements: 

  • Expert Knowledge: Tax professionals possess an in-depth understanding of IRS rules and regulations, including the eligibility criteria and nuances associated with penalty abatements. They can accurately assess your situation and determine which type of abatement is most applicable to your case. 
  • Effective Communication: Tax professionals serve as intermediaries between you and the IRS. They handle all correspondence and negotiations with the IRS on your behalf, ensuring that your rights are protected and that your case is presented in the best possible light. 
  • Thorough Documentation: Preparing an abatement request requires gathering comprehensive documentation and presenting a persuasive case. Tax professionals are skilled in assembling the necessary evidence and arguments to support your request effectively. 
  • Navigating IRS Requirements: Tax professionals are well-versed in the specific information and evidence the IRS looks for when evaluating penalty abatements. They can ensure that your request meets the IRS’s criteria, increasing the likelihood of approval. 
  • Timely Submission: Meeting deadlines and adhering to IRS procedures is critical when requesting penalty abatements. Tax professionals ensure that your abatement request is submitted accurately and promptly. 

First Time Penalty Abatement and Beyond: 

While the first-time penalty abatement is available for initial penalties, it’s essential to note that reasonable cause penalty abatements offer a broader scope for addressing penalties resulting from various circumstances. Our team of tax attorneys and enrolled agents will assess your specific situation to determine the most suitable abatement strategy. 

In conclusion, IRS penalties can impose a significant financial burden, but you have options for relief through penalty abatements. Understanding the types of penalties, when they are assessed, and the criteria for requesting abatements is crucial. However, the complexity of the process and the need for compelling arguments and documentation make professional representation invaluable. Tax attorneys and enrolled agents possess the expertise and experience to navigate the intricacies of penalty abatements, protect your rights, and increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome. With their assistance, you can effectively address IRS penalties and find relief from the financial strain they may cause. 

Ready to see if you qualify for penalty abatement relief? Contact our team today to get your free initial consultation.  

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