An option for those in a bind over taxes

It can be easy to think of nonpayers of taxes as white-collar criminals bent on cheating the feds.

But between 25 million and 35 million Americans - more than 10 percent of the tax-paying population - have tax-delinquency problems, according to various surveys. And many can chalk it up to confusion or legitimate mistakes.

For people in a legitimate bind, there are some options. The Internal Revenue Service's "Offer in Compromise" (OIC) program helps taxpayers and the IRS reach a settlement. The IRS may settle for less if there is doubt about the assessed tax, doubt that the taxpayer could ever pay the full amount, or some exceptional circumstance that means collection of the tax would create an undue economic hardship.

"It takes a lot of work and manpower for the IRS to chase and keep delinquent taxpayers on the books year after year," says Bruce Mayberry, owner of Capitol Tax Relief, a Los Angeles-based company that helps clients negotiate with the IRS. "What they are looking to do is close the books on these cases and get them back into the system paying taxes again."

For more information on how to file an OIC request, go to the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

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