Do You Have Forgiven Debt? You May Still Owe Taxes.

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When you owe creditors money that you can’t afford to repay, sometimes you may be able to get the debt forgiven or otherwise canceled. When this happens, you don’t owe your creditors the money that you used to owe them.

The IRS, however, usually sees such canceled debt as income that you’ve received. Income that you could owe taxes on. If you do not report it or fail to pay your taxes on the canceled debt, you’ll end up owing penalties and interest and over time, that could be just as big of a hassle as your original debt.

Note: If you have any tax trouble or owe more than $10k to the IRS or state but can’t pay in full, don’t hesitate – contact our firm today. We help people find tax relief, file years of unfiled tax returns, and sometimes settle their tax debt for a fraction of what’s owed.

When Do I Not Owe Taxes On Forgiven Debt?

In some scenarios, you may get an exemption and there are some circumstances in which you won’t owe taxes.

Your debt is discharged through bankruptcy proceedings:
If you are in serious financial trouble, you may file for bankruptcy and have your debts discharged by the court. These debts, while forgiven, are not considered taxable.

You’re insolvent:

When you are able to reach an agreement with a creditor by paying them less than you owe them, your financial situation may be bad enough that you owe, in general, more than you own. If you are considered financially insolvent in this way by the IRS, you may have either part or all of your debt excluded from taxation. If you believe that you may qualify for insolvency exemption, you should hire a tax resolution professional to help make sure.

A canceled debt from friends or family:
If you borrow from friends or family and they forgive the debt, the money forgiven is considered a gift, and is not taxable income.

Tax-deductible interest:

If debt that is forgiven consists of interest that is tax-deductible, the interest component does not need to be reported as taxable income. Discharged student loans are also usually exempt from taxation.

Including the forgiven debt in your tax return

If you don’t tell your tax professional about the forgiven debt, in most cases, you won’t know about paying taxes on forgiven debt until you receive a notice in the mail about it. Most of the time, a creditor who forgives you over $600 sends you a 1099-C form stating the amount forgiven. If the debt forgiven is exempt, you may need to fill out a Form 982 to state how much should be exempt, and why.

What do you do if you pay taxes on forgiven debt that should be exempt?

If your forgiven debt is actually exempt from taxes, but you still pay, you’re allowed to amend your tax return for three years. You simply need to file Form 1040X, and mention your exemption on Form 982.

Working with forgiven debt can be complicated. It is usually a good idea to hire a tax resolution professional to work out the details.


Our firm specializes in tax problem resolution. We serve clients virtually so don’t hesitate to reach out. If you want an expert tax resolution specialist who knows how to navigate the IRS maze, reach out to our firm today and we’ll schedule a no-obligation confidential consultation to explain your options to permanently resolve your tax problem.