Quick Facts About the IRS’s Fresh Start Initiative

If you’re one of the countless Americans facing tax debt that can’t afford a tax attorney, a tax relief program like the Fresh Start Initiative from the Internal Revenue Service. Having a change of heart in 2011, the IRS has decided to change the ways in which they deal with tax liens by creating the Fresh Start Initiative. As audits are more popular for citizens in the $50,000-$100,000 income bracket, it only makes sense that the IRS would eventually work on a way to alleviate the burden of audits to the middle class.

This program gives taxpayers a better chance of sitting down at the negotiation table with the IRS rather than having liens placed on their homes or automobiles. For many, that’s the difference between keeping their job or driving their kids to school. That being said, it’s still a program that works like the rest of the IRS- Compliance is key. Joining this program does not absolve you of your duty to pay taxes, but in many cases, it’s the helping hand taxpayers need to conquer their tax debt.

The Fresh Start Initiative Isn’t One Program

The Fresh Start Initiative isn’t actually a program but rather a change to current tax laws the alleviates taxpayers with owed monies by offering new avenues of payment that don’t require extreme liens. This includes a collection of programs that are targeted at different groups to help them come up with alternative payments plans and offers in compromise. Each program will have its own set of rules, regulations, and terms. Much like health insurance, you’ll through various agencies to meet the goal of tax debt settlement. Much like any other time you’re dealing with the IRS, it’s important to have the right documents in order before approaching them. Though there are people in place to help citizens throughout the process, it’s always easier to work with an accountant or tax attorney to get your paperwork in order.

Generally Speaking, There are 4 Types of Programs

Each program has its own unique terms, but generally speaking relief options from the initiative tend to fall under 4 categories.

  • Installment Agreements. You can set up payment plans with the IRS on 72-month cycles for debts under $50,000. For debts over $50,000, the IRS is likely to require financial reporting.
  • Penalty Relief. IRS interest rates build quickly despite being capped. Through Frest Start, you can negotiate relief from these penalties.
  • Tax Liens. Garnishment is the most common form of a lien, though the IRS is known to go for homes and vehicles too. With Fresh Start, you can negotiate these liens.
  • Offers in Compromise. With this program, you may be able to negotiate what your offer in compromise will be to the IRS.

As we mentioned above, the options tend to fall in these 4 categories. Each solution is going to come with its own set of terms and conditions. It’s important to be aware of the fine print before you choose an option. Take into account your current financial situation and choose the most realistic option for your debt.

It’s Not an Instant Fix

Like most debt relief programs, the process is not quick and easy. Though you can get all the help you need through documentation, it can take anywhere from 120 days to 6 months to come to a negotiation with the IRS. In some cases, it takes up to a year. The best thing you can do to for your application is to be organized. The more documentation and research you do in advance, the better. Take the time to understand the different offerings of the programs before you begin talking to representatives.

Be prepared to what your turn in line, but act quickly when the initiative makes contact with you. Due to the lengthy list of help requests, the IRS is likely to kick you to the back of the line if you neglect to contact them in a timely manner after your query. Knowing this, you need to be prepared. Do not stop worrying about interest rates simply because you’re put your hopes into the Fresh Start Initiative.

It’s Not the Best Choice for Everyone

Though applying for the Initiative is free, the programs are not always free of cost. Some include paying a percentage of back tax in exchange for help. For this reason, this program should only be looked at by those that are suffering financially with little options left. In most cases, the 72-month programs offered by the IRS are enough to manage smaller debts. If you’re not in a situation where you owe over $10,000 in taxes, you’re better off seeking other options through a tax attorney.

That’s not to suggest that a tax attorney can’t help you with the Fresh Start Initiative. Quite the opposite. In most cases, a tax attorney can help you make the right decisions on programs offered by the Fresh Start Initiative. Due to their long experience in working with the IRS, they’re well equipped to help you navigate tax debt settlement options.


The IRS had made strides in helping taxpayers handle their debt. Despite the fact that many of the programs under this initiative are free, they’re best suited for taxpayers with a mountain of debt and little solutions left. In those cases, these programs can breathe new life into a hopeless situation. If you’re unsure whether or not your situation will benefit from the Fresh Start Initiative, seek professional guidance. Most cities in America will have local cost-free resources and paid-for expertise alike that will help you manage your debt and your payment plans.

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