Understanding IRS Hardship Rules: What You Need To Know

IRS Hardship Rules

Navigating the complexities of tax laws can be as daunting as walking through a labyrinth with no map. Among the various guidelines the IRS enforces, understanding hardship rules is crucial for taxpayers facing financial distress. These rules are designed to offer relief to those who are genuinely unable to meet their tax obligations due to financial hardship. If you’re in a tight spot, comprehending these provisions can be the lifeline that keeps your financial boat afloat. 

In this blog post, we’ll unravel the essentials of IRS hardship rules to help you understand your options and obligations.


1. Qualifying For The IRS Hardship Program

The IRS recognizes that not all taxpayers can pay their dues without causing severe financial hardship. But what exactly constitutes hardship according to the IRS? Essentially, it’s a situation where paying your owed taxes would prevent you from meeting basic living expenses. 

To explore IRS financial hardship program, the starting point is to prove that you’re facing significant financial distress. This involves filling out a Collection Information Statement (Form 433-A or Form 433-F) to provide the IRS with an accurate picture of your financial status.

The IRS uses a set of national and local standards to determine allowable living expenses. These standards cover food, clothing, housing, utilities, transportation, and health care. If your necessary living expenses exceed your income, you may qualify for hardship status. 

Bear in mind that the IRS will thoroughly check your expenses against these standards, and only certain types of expenses are considered necessary. Luxury expenses, for instance, are unlikely to be accommodated.

2. Types Of Relief Under Hardship Rules

The IRS offers different types of relief under hardship rules, each suited to specific situations. Here are some you might consider:

  • Currently Not Collectible (CNC) Status: If the IRS agrees that you can’t both pay your taxes and cover reasonable living expenses, they may place your account in CNC status. This temporarily halts collections until your financial situation improves.
  • Installment Agreements: For those who can pay over time, an installment agreement allows you to make monthly payments. If you’re under financial hardship, the IRS may agree to lower payments that are more in line with what you can afford.
  • Offer in Compromise (OIC): This is an agreement that allows you to settle your tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed if you can’t pay your tax debt in full or if doing so creates a financial hardship.

3. Documentation Is Key

To apply for any hardship consideration, you’ll need to provide comprehensive documentation. This includes bank statements, pay stubs, living expenses, loan agreements, and any other records that substantiate your financial status. 

Accurate and thorough documentation is vital to prove your claim of hardship. It’s advisable to keep your financial records organized and to seek professional advice if you’re unsure about what’s required.

4. Tax Compliance Is Still A Must

Even if you qualify for hardship, you’re still expected to file your tax returns. Failing to file can lead to penalties and may jeopardize your chances of obtaining relief. Being in compliance shows the IRS that you’re making a good-faith effort to meet your tax responsibilities, despite your current financial situation.

5. Long-Term Consequences And Solutions

While IRS hardship rules can provide temporary relief, they don’t eliminate your tax debt. Interest and penalties may continue to accrue on unpaid balances. Therefore, it’s important to consider the long-term implications and work towards a sustainable solution. This might involve adjusting your budget, seeking debt counseling, or exploring ways to increase your income.


Falling on hard financial times can be a distressing experience, and dealing with tax obligations can add to that stress. Fortunately, the IRS hardship rules provide mechanisms for relief, but they require a clear understanding and strategic action. If you believe you qualify for hardship, it’s important to engage with the IRS proactively and transparently. Consider seeking the advice of a tax professional who can guide you through the process and help you explore all available options. 

Remember, these provisions are in place to help you manage your tax responsibilities without sacrificing your basic living needs. 

More Resources:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here