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Debt Settlement – What About The Income Taxes?
If debt seems to be on your mind quite often in recent months, there's a high probability that you've looked into your options and found that debt settlement is growing in popularity as an alternative to bankruptcy. This is especially true since the new bankruptcy law went into effect back in October 2005. Debt settlement, as you may know, is a process by which creditors agree to accept less than the full balance owed (usually around 50% or less) to settle an account. The remaining balance is then forgiven and no further money is owed.
When a creditor agrees to settle an account for less than the full balance, they are required by the IRS to report the canceled debt on Form 1099, if the amount of the forgiven debt is $600 or greater. The possibility of tax consequences as a result of debt settlement seems to be unsettling to many people, including some consumers and debt counselors. When you look at the larger picture, however, you'll better understand why the tax consequences of debt settlement shouldn't even be a major consideration.
When individuals are required to pay taxes on the amount of the canceled debt it's because they saved a significant amount of money, right? It seems that it should be common sense to realize that the total amount paid to the creditor, in addition to the taxes would still be much less than what you would end up paying if you were to continue making the minimum monthly payments each month. As a matter of fact, it's highly likely that the interest paid to a creditor over a period of years would easily exceed the taxes for which you may be liable as a result of settling your debt.
There's also a good possibility that you may not be required to pay taxes on your forgiven debt if you can prove that you were "insolvent" at the time you settled your debt(s). In order to be classified as insolvent you need to have a negative net worth. In other words, you would owe more money than you're actually worth and your liabilities would exceed your assets.
If this is not the case and you're not classified as insolvent at the time of any settlement of debt, then obviously you may owe at least something to the IRS. If this is the case then it's important to speak with a tax professional as the April 15 tax deadline nears so that you may get advice regarding your particular situation. If you're not quite sure where you stand regarding the insolvency rule take a look at IRS Publication 908 for additional information.
The bottom line is your bottom line. If you're in debt and considering debt settlement as an option, the possible tax consequences shouldn't play a major role in your decision. Your ultimate goal is to be debt-free. If you do your homework you'll see the positive results of resolving your debt will likely outweigh any tax liability which you may have and your bottom line will prove it.
About The Author
Susan Megge is a consultant in the credit services industry. Over the past several years she has assisted many individuals in resolving their debt-related matters. For more information regarding credit and debt visit http://www.donaldsonwilliams.com
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