IRS Payment Strategies: 9 Ways to Pay Your Taxes

There's more than one way to make an IRS payment, and some of the options may surprise you.

Tina OremJanuary 14, 2020
want-to-make-an-irs-payment-here-are-several-options

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Back in the day, writing a check was pretty much the only way to make an IRS payment. Now, however, there are a ton of options. Here’s how today’s IRS payment options work, what they cost and some pros and cons of each method.

Some tax rules have changed due to coronavirus

Learn more about what's different for taxpayers as part of the federal government's response to the coronavirus.

1. Use IRS Direct Pay

How it works: You go to the IRS Direct Pay website, verify your identity and bank information, and authorize an ACH debit from your bank account.

Cost: Free

Pros: 

  • Can be done online.

  • Also works for paying estimated taxes, installment agreement payments, and payments for amended returns and tax extensions.

  • Can schedule payments up to 30 days in advance.

  • Change or cancel a scheduled IRS payment until two days before the payment date.

  • Can get email notifications about your payment.

  • Can make same-day payments.

Cons:

  • Can’t make more than two payments in a 24-hour period.

  • Payment takes up to two business days to come out of your account.

  • No business payments allowed.

  • Can’t pay from an international bank account unless it has a U.S. affiliate.

2. The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS)

How it works:  You go to the IRS EFTPS website, provide identity and bank information, wait about a week for a PIN to arrive in the mail, set a password, go back online and authorize an ACH transaction from your bank account.

Cost: Free

Pros: 

  • Can be done online or via phone 24/7.

  • Works for paying all federal taxes, including business taxes.

  • Can schedule payments up to a year in advance.

  • Can make same-day payments.

  • Change or cancel a scheduled IRS payment until two days before the payment date.

  • Can get email notifications about your payment.

Cons:

  • Takes longer to set up than Direct Pay.

  • Your bank may charge a fee if you have it initiate the payment for you (rather than scheduling the payment yourself on the EFTPS website or via phone).

3. Make an IRS payment with a same-day wire transfer

How it works: A wire transfer moves money electronically from one person to another using a bank or a nonbank provider.

Cost: About $25, depending on your institution

Pros:

  • Speedy money transfer.

Cons:

  • Your financial institution decides the availability, cost and cut-off times for the wire.

  • You have to fill out the IRS' Same-Day Taxpayer Worksheet and take it to your bank first.

  • You must fill out a separate worksheet for each IRS payment you make.

  • The transfer is final once processed.


Optimize the cash in your bank accounts


4. Make an IRS payment with a debit card

How it works: You go to the website of one of the IRS’s three independent payment processors, then provide the payment amount, your card information and other data. The processor sends the money to the IRS.

Cost: Between $2 and $3.95 per payment

Pros: 

  • Can be done online or over the phone.

  • Works with PayPal, Visa Checkout, MasterPass and AMEX Express Checkout (depending on which provider you choose).

Cons:

  • Processing fees.

  • Payments over $100,000 may require special coordination with the processor.

  • Usually can’t cancel payments.

  • Your information goes through a third party.

5. Make an IRS payment with a credit card

How it works: You go to the website of one of the IRS’ three independent payment processors, then provide the payment amount, your card information and other data. The processor sends the money to the IRS.

Cost: Between 1.87% and 1.99% of your payment; minimum fee is between $2.50 and $2.69

Pros:

  • Can be done online or over the phone.

  • Works with PayPal, Visa Checkout, MasterPass and AMEX Express Checkout (depending on which provider you choose).

Cons:

  • Fees usually cancel out the value of miles or other rewards earned for using your credit card.

  • High interest rate may apply if you carry the balance on your credit card.

  • Putting a large amount on your credit card could affect your credit score.

  • Usually can’t cancel payments.

  • Your information goes through a third party.

6. Make an IRS payment with a check, money order or cashier’s check

How it works: Have one made out to the U.S. Treasury and mail it to the IRS. Make sure it includes your name, address, daytime phone number, Social Security number, the tax year it should be applied to and related tax form or notice number.

Cost: Stamps and/or mail delivery tracking, plus a possible fee to get a money order or cashier’s check

Pros:

  • You don’t need a bank account to get a money order.

  • You may not need a bank account to get a cashier’s check.

  • Money orders and cashier’s checks can’t bounce.

  • Money orders and cashier’s checks are trackable, so you can verify receipt.

Cons:

  • You have to go to the bank or another provider to get a money order or cashier’s check.

  • Money orders have a $1,000 limit.

  • You must mail the check, money order or cashier’s check.

  • Payment may take days or weeks to get there and post.

  • Regular checks can bounce if there’s not enough money in the account or you don’t have enough overdraft protection.

7. Make an IRS payment in cash

How it works: Go to the IRS’ PayNearMe website and follow the instructions to make a cash IRS payment. You get an email confirming your information, and the IRS verifies your information. You get a second email with a link to a payment code and instructions. You then go to the retail store in the email, have the clerk scan your code and then you hand over your cash. You get a receipt and payment confirmation.

Cost: $3.99 per payment

Pros:

  • Doesn’t require a bank account.

  • Could be cheaper and more convenient than getting a money order or cashier’s check.

  • Available in 47 states.

Cons:

  • Only three retailers participate: 7-Eleven, ACE Cash Express and Casey’s General Store.

  • Can take five to seven business days to process payment.

  • Can only pay $1,000 per day.

  • Getting the cash may require a trip to a bank.

  • Might involve carrying a large amount of cash.

8. Make an IRS payment via app

How it works: IRS2Go is the IRS’ official mobile app, and you can use it to make payments via IRS Direct Pay for free or with a debit or credit card (for a fee).

Cost: App is free

Pros:

  • Mobile-friendly.

  • Can generate login security codes for certain online services (rather than send them via text message).

  • Can also use the app to file your return, find free tax software and find free tax help.

Cons:

  • Only Direct Pay, credit card and debit card payment methods are mobile-friendly.

  • Using Direct Pay via the app is free, but paying with debit or credit cards still comes with a processing fee.

9. Make IRS payments over time in installments

How it works: If you can’t pay your tax bill in full when it’s due, you can get on a payment plan with the IRS. There are two types of plans: short-term (for people who can pay off the balance in 120 days or fewer) and long-term (for people who need more than 120 days to pay).

Cost: $0 to $225, depending on the plan you select, how you enroll and whether you’re a low-income taxpayer (see all the details here)

Pros:

  • Sign up online fairly easily (also by phone, mail or in person).

  • Most taxpayers qualify.

  • Lets the IRS know you’re making an effort to pay.

  • Can arrange to have payments automatically come out of your account (direct debit).

  • Plans can be restructured or reinstated (for a fee of $10-$89).

Cons:

  • Penalties and interest accrue until the balance is paid in full.

  • There’s a fee to sign up for a long-term payment plan; low-income taxpayers get a discount.

  • Can’t owe more than $50,000 to get on a long-term plan.

  • Can’t owe more than $100,000 to get on short-term plan.

Find the tax relief company that's best for you

We've weighed the pros and cons of some major players in the space.

Company

Fees

Service

$250 discovery fees. $900-$3,000 resolution fees.

  • Dedicated case manager.

  • Phone, email, mail and chat.

  • Refunds possible but somewhat limited.

Free initial consultation.

$495 discovery fee.

$1,500-$4,000 resolution fees (on average; depends on case specifics).

  • Dedicated case manager.

  • Phone, email, mail and online portal.

  • Refunds limited/case-by-case basis.

Free initial consultation.

$399 discovery fees.

$1,400 resolution fees (on average, per the company).

  • Most case managers are also enrolled agents or CPAs.

  • Phone, email, mail and online portal.

  • Refunds possible but somewhat limited.

Free initial consultation.

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet’s official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.