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How to Qualify and Apply for an Offer in Compromise? 

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Alisson Ward

Tax Professional | Content Writer

Qualify and Apply for an Offer in Compromise

How to Qualify and Apply for an Offer in Compromise?

Dealing with a substantial tax debt can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. But the IRS offers a lifeline to taxpayers through the Offer in Compromise (OIC) program, allowing them to settle their tax debt for less than the full amount owed. However, qualifying for and successfully applying for an OIC is a complex process. Here, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to qualify and apply for an Offer in Compromise, helping you navigate the path to potential tax debt relief.

Qualification Criteria

Before you can consider applying for an Offer in Compromise, it’s essential to determine whether you meet the IRS’s qualification criteria. The IRS evaluates several factors to assess your eligibility:

Adequate Tax Compliance

To qualify for an Offer in Compromise, you must be up to date with all your tax filings. This includes filing all required tax returns, including the current year, if applicable. The IRS will not consider your application if you have unfiled tax returns.

Tax Debt Eligibility

Not all tax debts are eligible for an OIC. The IRS looks at the amount you owe, your income, expenses, asset equity, and your future earning potential. They want to make sure that the offer you propose represents the most they can expect to collect within a reasonable period. To determine eligibility, the IRS considers your Reasonable Collection Potential (RCP). RCP is calculated by assessing your:

  • Ability to pay
  • Income
  • Expenses
  • Asset equity

Demonstrate Financial Hardship

One of the most critical aspects of qualifying for an Offer in Compromise is proving that paying your tax debt in full would cause you undue financial hardship. The IRS examines your financial situation, taking into account your ability to meet basic living expenses while satisfying your tax obligation. If it’s clear that paying the full amount would leave you unable to maintain a reasonable standard of living, you have a better chance of qualifying.

Preparing Your Offer

Assuming you meet the IRS’s qualification criteria, the next step is to prepare your Offer in Compromise. Here’s how you can do that:

Determine an Appropriate Offer Amount

Calculating your offer amount is a critical step in the process. Your offer amount should consider your available income, allowable expenses, and the equity in your assets. To arrive at this figure, you’ll need to go through a financial evaluation, which is often complex and requires careful consideration.

The IRS provides an Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool on their website that can help you determine a preliminary estimate of your offer amount. However, it’s highly recommended to seek professional guidance or use a tax professional to ensure your calculations are accurate and reflect your true financial situation.

Complete the Required Forms

To submit an Offer in Compromise, you’ll need to complete several IRS forms, the most important of which is Form 656, “Offer in Compromise.” This form requires you to disclose your financial information and offer details. Additionally, you’ll need to submit:

  • Form 433-A (OIC), Collection Information Statement for Wage Earners and Self-Employed Individuals, or Form 433-B (OIC), Collection Information Statement for Businesses, depending on your situation.

These forms are extensive and require meticulous attention to detail. Any errors or omissions can lead to the rejection of your OIC application. It’s wise to consider seeking professional assistance or tax advice to ensure the forms are filled out correctly.

Submit Your Application

Once you’ve accurately completed all the required forms and gathered the necessary supporting documentation, you can submit your OIC package to the IRS. Be sure to include all forms and documents requested, as well as any additional information that may be relevant to your case.

Please note that there is an associated application fee for submitting an Offer in Compromise. However, this fee may be waived if you qualify based on low income, as determined by the IRS.

Evaluation and Approval

After submitting your Offer in Compromise, the IRS will conduct a thorough evaluation of your application. Here’s what to expect during this phase:

Application Review

The IRS will carefully review your OIC application to ensure that it’s complete and accurate. They will assess your financial situation and ability to pay. If any information is missing or unclear, the IRS may request additional information or clarification.

It’s essential to be patient during this process, as it can take several months for the IRS to complete their review. The more accurately and promptly you respond to their requests for additional information, the smoother the process will be.


In some cases, the IRS may engage in negotiations with you to determine an acceptable settlement amount. This is why it’s crucial to be prepared to discuss your offer and provide any requested documentation promptly.

During negotiations, the IRS may consider various factors, such as your income, expenses, and the equity in your assets. They may also take into account any special circumstances that may affect your ability to pay. Professional representation or advice can be particularly valuable during this phase to help you secure the most favorable settlement.

Approval and Payment

If the IRS accepts your Offer in Compromise, you’ll receive written confirmation. Once approved, you’ll have the option to choose between two payment methods:

Lump Sum Cash Offer:

If you can pay the offered amount in a lump sum, you’ll need to submit the agreed-upon sum to the IRS within a short timeframe. The IRS will release any federal tax liens upon receiving this payment.

Periodic Payment Offer:

If you can’t pay the offered amount as a lump sum, you can opt for a periodic payment offer. Under this option, you’ll make monthly payments until the agreed-upon amount is paid in full. The IRS will maintain a tax lien during this time.


Navigating the Offer in Compromise process is a challenging but potentially rewarding endeavor for taxpayers burdened by substantial tax debt. By understanding the qualification criteria and diligently following the application process, you can significantly increase your chances of securing a favorable OIC arrangement with the IRS. Seek professional guidance and support as needed to ensure your application is accurate, complete, and representative of your financial situation. An Offer in Compromise can be a lifeline for individuals and businesses looking to regain control of their financial future while fulfilling their tax obligations. Don’t hesitate to explore this option if you believe it’s the right path to tax debt relief for you.

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