IRS Payment Plan: How Installment Agreements Work

There are different IRS payment plans, and you can get on an installment plan on your own — maybe even for free.
Tina Orem
Sabrina Parys
By Sabrina Parys and  Tina Orem 
Edited by Chris Hutchison
How to Set Up an IRS Payment Plan

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What is an IRS payment plan?

An IRS payment plan is an agreement you make directly with the agency to pay your federal tax bill over a certain amount of time. There are two kinds of IRS payment plans: short-term and long-term.

Typically you'll make monthly payments to settle what you owe. So long as you're keeping up with that, the IRS usually won't garnish your wages or seize any bank accounts or property. But getting on an IRS payment plan doesn’t get you out of interest and penalties for late payment; those accrue until your balance is zero.

Who is eligible for an IRS payment plan?

You don’t need to call the IRS to get on a payment plan. You can apply online for a short- or long-term plan if you meet the following criteria:

  1. Long-term payment plan: You owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest, and you’ve filed all your tax returns.

  2. Short-term payment plan: You owe less than $100,000 in combined tax, penalties and interest.

Minimum monthly payments for IRS payment plans

In general, you can choose what you pay every month. That is, the IRS will ask you what you can afford. However, if you're on a long-term payment plan, you must choose a payment amount that will pay off your debt within 72 months.

What are the fees for an IRS payment plan?

The cost of an IRS payment plan depends on which plan you choose, how you apply for the plan and whether you qualify for a fee reduction.

Payment plan type

Maximum you can owe to qualify

Setup fee & payment methods

Short-term payment plan

(120 days)

$100,000 in combined tax, penalties and interest.

$0 to apply online, by phone, by mail or in person. Pay balance by:

  • Withdrawals from your checking account or savings account (Direct Pay),

  • E-pay online or by phone via the IRS's Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or

  • Check, money order or debit/credit card.

Long-term payment plan

(120 days or more)

$50,000 in combined tax, penalties and interest.

If you pay through automatic debit withdrawals:

  • $31 setup fee to apply online.

  • $107 setup fee to apply by phone, mail or in person.

  • Setup fee may be waived for low-income taxpayers.

If you pay by another method (e.g., Direct Pay, EFTPS or money order):

  • $130 setup fee to apply online.

  • $225 setup fee to apply by phone, mail or in person.

  • $43 setup fee for low-income taxpayers; may later be reimbursed.

Taxpayers can also apply for an extended short-term payment plan of up to 180 days by contacting the IRS by phone or mail.

A few other fee-related details to note:

  • You may qualify as a low-income applicant if your adjusted gross income is at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. (See if you qualify on IRS Form 13844.) If you’re a low-income taxpayer, the IRS waives the user fee if you agree to let it make automatic withdrawals from your bank account for the payments. If you qualify as a low-income taxpayer but are unable to make electronic debit payments, the IRS will reimburse you for the user fee when you pay off your balance.

  • If you make your payments with a debit or credit card, you’ll have to pay a processing fee. The charge for debit cards runs about $2 to $4 per payment; the charge for credit cards can be up to 2% of the payment.

  • If you owe more than $25,000, you have to make your payments via automatic withdrawals from a bank account (“direct debit”).

What information do I need to apply?

You’ll need to confirm your identity to apply, which means having the following information on hand:

  • Name exactly as it appears on your most recently filed tax return.

  • A valid email address.

  • Address from your most recently filed tax return.

  • Date of birth.

  • Filing status.

  • Your Social Security number or Individual Tax ID Number.

  • Balance due amount.

  • Financial account number, mobile phone registered in your name or an activation code received by mail (takes five to 10 business days).

Here's a potential timesaver: If you’ve previously registered for an online IRS account, a tax transcript, or an Identity Protection PIN, you probably can log in with the same user ID and password.

Alternatively, you can fill out IRS Form 9465 and mail it to the IRS.

How do I make changes to an IRS payment plan?

The IRS offers an online tool that lets you change your monthly payment amount, change the monthly due date, sign up for automatic withdrawals and reinstate a payment plan you’ve fallen behind on. However, that works only if you’re not making payments through direct debit.

  • If you’re on a plan where the payments are coming out of your bank account automatically, you have to contact the IRS directly.

  • There might be a reinstatement fee if your plan goes into default.

Can I apply for an IRS payment plan myself?

Yes. You are not required to pay a third party to apply for a payment plan.

If you do hire a tax-relief company to help you settle your debt, you may have to give it power of attorney to apply for an IRS payment plan on your behalf. And proceed with caution and do your research, as the Federal Trade Commission warns on its website:

“The truth is that most taxpayers don’t qualify for the programs these fraudsters hawk, their companies don’t settle the tax debt, and in many cases don’t even send the necessary paperwork to the IRS requesting participation in the programs that were mentioned. Adding insult to injury, some of these companies don’t provide refunds, and leave people even further in debt.”

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