Could your small business survive and even thrive if you could just get better terms for payment of your back tax debts?
The owners of just about every struggling sole proprietorship have income and business tax problems. When you are barely scraping by, needing every dollar to pay the absolutely necessary keep-the-business-running expenses, you can find yourself unable to scrape together the money to make your estimated personal income tax payments each quarter. If you have an employee or two, it can be all too tempting to use the withheld payroll tax money for some critical business or personal expense instead of paying it over to the IRS. So even when business improves, once you fall behind with your taxes it’s terribly difficult to catch up, to be simultaneously paying both your current and past tax obligations. This especially true considering accruing late charges and interest, which can greatly increase the amount you must pay to catch up.
Add to the mix the IRS’ limited flexibility on payment terms for back taxes, plus its extraordinary collection powers against you and against your business and personal assets, and it’s no wonder that back taxes are often the most urgent problem for a business owner trying to figure out what to do.
If your business is a sole proprietorship in your name, or in your name and that of your spouse, a Chapter 13 case would very likely give you a series of advantages in dealing with your past due tax liabilities, while allowing your business to continue to operate. (If your business is instead in the form of a corporation, or if your debt amount is larger than a certain threshold, you may not qualify for Chapter 13 but instead need to consider Chapter 11 or other options, a discussion which is beyond the scope of this blog.)
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy could help your business survive by significantly reducing both your business and personal monthly debt obligations, and the tax debts themselves as well as the rest of your debts. As for the back taxes:
• some of the taxes or penalties may be written off (“discharged”) altogether;
• payments on the remaining tax debts would usually be stretched out over a much longer period than the taxing authorities would otherwise allow, thereby greatly reducing the amount you would need to pay each month; and
• ongoing interest and penalties usually stop accruing, so that the payments you make pay the tax debts off much more quickly.
So Chapter 13 almost always gives you both immediate month-to-month relief easing your business and personal cash flow, and long-term relief reducing what you must pay before you are tax debt free, and completely debt free.