If you have had a debt settled for less than the total balance, you may receive a 1099-C. You may or may not have to pay any additional tax.
When you settle a debt for less than the full balance due, and this is for $600 or more, the creditor or debt collector may report this to the Internal Revenue Service. I say "may report" because they don't always report a settled or "forgiven" debt.
Over the past decade that we have been helping people get out of debt, it seems that in the last year or so, more and more creditors and/or debt collectors are reporting settled or forgiven debt.
I have to start out by stating that I am not a CPA or licensed professional tax consultant, so any advice here should only be used to help point you in the right direction. If you do receive a 1099-C, please seek the help of a professional tax consultant!
So what should you do if you receive a 1099-C?
DON'T IGNORE IT!!!!
Let's say that you had a Credit Card that had a balance of $10,000 and because of circumstances beyond your control, you just couldn't make the minimum payments.
Most likely, this account was sent to a collection agency after the original creditor made numerous attempts, such as annoying and often harassing phone calls and many collection letters.
The debt collector may have sent you an offer to settle for less than the full amount due or perhaps you or a Debt Settlement Company were able to negotiate a good settlement.
Using our $10,000 example, let's say that the settlement was for $4,000. The debt collector was willing to "forgive" (in IRS lingo) $6,000. The debt collector reports this to the IRS in order to write that amount off as a loss and you are sent an IRS form 1099-C.
At first glance, it may look like you owe $6,000 of additional tax, but this is not so!
You will need to file the proper forms with your tax return to have the settled or forgiven amount EXCLUDED from being added back in as additional taxable income.
As usual, the IRS seems to have complicated the process, but in reality, it is not that difficult to file properly.
The basic and most important question that you must answer and prove to the IRS is:
"At the time of the settlement or forgiveness of the debt, were you insolvent?"
What is "insolvent"?
If, AT THE TIME OF THE SETTLEMENT, you had more debt than you had in assets, then you were insolvent. (Sounds terrible, but that's just their terminology.)
So, how do you find out or prove if you were insolvent or not?
It is really not difficult. Take a piece of paper (or use your computer if you want) and one side list all of your assets, such as:
- Net equity of your home (Current value less amount you owe = net equity)
- Cash or money in the bank
- Net DEPRECIATED value of things such as furniture, appliances, tools, etc. remember, even though you paid $2,000 for that refrigerator a few years ago, today it probably would sell for only $200-$300!
- Net value of your autos, boats, campers, etc. Same thing, NET, DEPRECIATED VALUE!
Total all of these up.
On the other side of your sheet, list all of your DEBTS OR LIABILITIES, such as:
Since you've used the NET VALUE (Depreciated Value less Balance still due) on the ASSET SIDE, were probably talking about:
- Credit cards
- Store cards
- Student loans
- Medical Bills
- Personal loans
- Possibly Home Equity loan or 2nd you forgot to list before!
Add all of these up.
Subtract the total of all of your LIABILITIES (DEBTS) from your NET ASSETS. Which is greater? If your Liabilities are greater than your Net Assets, you were insolvent at the time of settlement and therefore, the amount forgiven WILL NOT be included as taxable income.
The next part seems a little difficult, but it's not.
You are going to complete:
- IRS Form 982
- A copy of your ASSETS VS. LIABILITIES worksheet
- A copy of the 1099-C
You are going include these along with your normal tax return. By the way, don't be surprised if your tax preparer seems a little confused as to how to handle a 1099-C. I've had clients pay tax that they didn't need to because the tax preparer didn't file the proper forms.
We have prepared a FREE 1099-C PACKET that you can download and use.
- IRS Forms
Get yours by clicking on the button below:
You are going to need the help of a qualified, tax consultant or preparer. You still should be able to exclude a large percentage of the forgiven debt, but there may be other ramifications, so I advise you to get help.
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