A Comprehensive Guide to the IRS Fresh Start Initiative

A Comprehensive Guide to the IRS Fresh Start Initiative

The IRS Fresh Start Initiative, launched in 2011, is a program designed to assist taxpayers, particularly first-time offenders, in managing and paying off their tax debts. This initiative has been a beacon of hope for many individuals and small businesses, providing them with an opportunity to rectify their tax situations without the burden of extensive interest and extra fees. This article will delve into the specifics of the Fresh Start Initiative and how it can be beneficial to taxpayers.

Understanding the Fresh Start Initiative

The Fresh Start Initiative is a series of changes to the IRS's collection procedures, focusing on taxpayers with tax debt but no federal tax liens against them. The program allows taxpayers to pay off their tax debts over six years through monthly payments, calculated based on their current income and liquid asset value.

Key Features of the Fresh Start Initiative

1. Federal Tax Liens (FTLs): The Fresh Start Initiative increased the amount triggering FTLs from $5,000 to $10,000, and later to $25,000. This change resulted in fewer FTL filings. Taxpayers entering a Direct Debit Installment Agreement can also expect more frequent FTL withdrawals.

2. Installment Agreements: The program has made it easier for small businesses to obtain Installment Agreements. Taxpayers who owe $50,000 or less can pay their debt over a span of six years without incurring any additional penalties or interest.

3. Offer in Compromise (OIC): The Fresh Start Initiative has streamlined and expanded the qualifications for the OIC program, which allows taxpayers to settle their tax debt for less than the full amount they owe.

Eligibility for the Fresh Start Initiative

To qualify for the Fresh Start Initiative, taxpayers must be ready to pay their tax debt through installments over a specific period, based on a structured repayment plan. Other requirements include:

- Having IRS debt of $50,000 or less, or the ability to repay a significant portion of the amount.
- Being able to repay the debt over a span of 5 years or less.
- Not having defaulted on IRS tax payments before.
- Being current with their tax filings for the present tax year.
- Agreeing to adhere to the installment agreement and not incurring any additional debt during the installment agreement's period.
- Filing for, and paying the agreed amount for an OIC within a year.

Benefits of the Fresh Start Initiative

Eligible taxpayers for the Fresh Start Initiative can enjoy several benefits:

- They can withdraw a federal tax lien if their debt is less than $25,000 or if they can pay a lower initial liability.
- First-time taxpayers may have some of their penalties reduced.
- Taxpayers who have been unemployed for more than a month may have their IRS penalties waived and can request an additional grace period of 6 months to file and repay taxes without worrying about expensive IRS penalties.

Repayment Options Under the Fresh Start Initiative

The Fresh Start Initiative offers three repayment options:

1. Extended Installment Agreement: This option is designed for taxpayers owing the IRS $50,000 or less. They are given a maximum of 6 years to repay their debt without incurring any additional penalties or interest.

2. Offer in Compromise (OIC): In this case, the taxpayer offers to pay less than the amount owed, sometimes much lower than the actual debt amount. This option is less common and may require the assistance of a tax professional.

3. Tax Lien Withdrawal: This option is for taxpayers ready to pay the entire debt amount using direct debit repayment. The taxpayer can give written instructions to have the amount directly withdrawn from their accounts.


The IRS Fresh Start Initiative is a valuable program that can help taxpayers manage their tax debts in an affordable manner. However, as the procedure can be complex, it's often beneficial to seek the assistance of a tax professional to help choose and enroll in the right program based on your current income and financial position.