This week: A reader needs to rely on the kindness of the IRS. Believe it or not, that can work.

Question: My husband and I needed to withdraw our 401(K) to basically live off of due to unforeseen medical expenses. With that being said, we have started a payment plan for 2015 taxes, which we can barely make, and will have to make payments for the 2016 returns.

My husband is 66 and I am 55, and we own a home, but still have a mortgage. My husband works part-time and takes his Social Security. I am working full-time.

Our question is, if we contact the IRS to ask to lower our monthly payments, will they work with us? We understand we need to pay our taxes, and are not trying to get out of that responsibility. However, we need to lower the payments.

Any suggestion/ideas would be helpful.

— Karen in Massachusetts

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Besides “complete thermonuclear annihilation,” the three scariest words in the English language for most people are, “Internal Revenue Service.” They shouldn’t be.

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The IRS is surprisingly easy to work with. Please note I didn’t say enjoyable. However, if you’re having trouble paying your taxes, the IRS doesn’t want to bleed you dry, and it can’t throw you in debtors’ prison (which was outlawed in this country hundreds of years ago).

The worst the IRS can do also involves three words, and they sound innocuous: “federal tax lien.” That means the IRS lays claim “to everything that you own and anything that you may own in the future while the lien is still in place.” However, as you’ll read if you click that link…

Usually, the IRS will only place a tax lien when no effort has been made to resolve a tax debt, despite the numerous letters and notices they have sent.

So if you work with the IRS, it will work with you. Don’t wait, because every month brings more penalties and interest. You can also seek a deal. It’s called an offer in compromise, and it allows you to pay less than you owe.

If that sounds too good to be true, it’s not — although it does come with many strings attached. Click the link to read more, and realize the IRS accepts only a fraction of these offers. Still, it’s worth exploring.

One last piece of advice: If you’re struggling to pay your taxes, that’s not only a problem but a symptom of larger debt issues. I strongly urge you to take advantage of a free debt analysis from a certified credit counselor. You can do that simply by calling the Debt.com phone number.

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

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Ask the Expert, income, IRS, liens, tax debt

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Article last modified on July 21, 2017. Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: How Friendly Is The IRS? Will They Work With Us? - AMP.