Currently Not Collectible


There are times where you agree you owe the IRS, but you can’t pay due to your current financial situation. If the IRS agrees you can’t both pay your taxes and your basic living expenses, it may place your account in Currently Not Collectible (CNC) status.

While your account is in CNC status, the IRS generally won't try to collect from you. For example: It won’t levy your assets and income. However, the IRS will still assess interest and penalties to your account and may keep your refunds and apply them to your debt. You'll also continue to receive an annual bill from the IRS as required under the law.

Before the IRS will place your account in CNC status it may ask you to file any past due tax returns.

If you request CNC status, generally, the IRS may ask you to provide financial information, to review your income and expenses and decide whether you can sell any assets or get a loan.

The IRS may collect the balance you owe if your financial situation has improved when they conduct an annual review of your income.

The IRS can attempt to collect your taxes up to ten years from the date they were assessed. The IRS may suspend the ten-year period in certain circumstances. The time the suspension is in effect will extend the time the IRS has to collect the tax.

The IRS won’t suspend interest and penalty charges, even if it stops trying to collect the balance due. You may want to consider other possible payment options within your means before asking the IRS to place your account in CNC status.

Don’t ignore the notices you get from the IRS about your balances due.

If you decide to request CNC status, you should:

  • File prior year tax returns (if you were required to file a return), even if you can't pay the amount you owe right now.
    • If you need help preparing your tax returns and can't afford to pay a tax return preparer, consider free file options.
    • If you meet the requirements, you might be able to have your return prepared for free at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) site.
    • The IRS may place your accounts in CNC status, even if you have unfiled returns and are in a hardship situation, if you meet the requirements.
    • Continue to make Estimated Tax Payments and Federal Tax Deposits on time.
  • Continue to file your returns on time even if you can’t pay. This will prevent late filing penalties.
  • Gather your information to verify your income, expenses, and any debts you owe (loans, etc.). You may need to provide the IRS this financial information so it can decide whether to grant your request.

To see if you qualify for CNC status, you'll need to contact the IRS.

If you have a notice, use the contact information included there. If you don’t have or have lost your notice, call the following numbers for assistance:

  • Individual taxpayers: 800-829-1040 (or TTY/TDD 800-829-4059)
  • Business taxpayers: 800-829-4933

If the IRS decides you can make some type of payment and you still disagree, you may:

  • Request a conference with the IRS Collection Manager. IRS employees are required to give you the name and phone number of their supervisor.
  • Hire an attorney, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or Enrolled Agent (EA) to represent you. If your income is below a certain level, you may qualify for assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.
  • Appeal certain collection actions the IRS is taking or proposing. See IRS Publication 1660, Collection Appeal Rights.

Contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service, if your problem is causing financial difficulty for you, your family, or your business; or you or your business is faced with an immediate threat of adverse action.

While applying for CNC status

  • The IRS may ask you to file any past due returns.
  • The IRS may ask you to complete IRS Form 433-A, Collection Information Statement for Wage Earners and Self-Employed Individuals, or IRS Form 433-F, Collection Information Statement, and/or IRS Form 433-B, Collection Information Statement for Businesses, before making any collection decision.
  • The IRS may require documentation to support items listed on your Collection Information Statements.
  • The IRS will continue to charge monthly late payment penalties and interest on your account.
  • The IRS will require you to continue to make your Estimated Tax Payments and Federal Tax Deposits, on time.

If the IRS places your account in CNC status

  • The IRS may keep your tax refunds and apply them to your debt. 
  • You can still make voluntary payments.
  • The IRS shouldn't levy your assets or income, unless later federal tax liabilities arise to remove you from an uncollectible stats.
  • The IRS may file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien (NFTL) even if your account is placed in CNC status. The filing of an NFTL can affect your credit rating, and your ability to sell property or other assets.
  • The IRS may contact you to update your financial information to be sure your ability to pay hasn’t changed.
  • The IRS is required by law to notify the State Department if you are certified as owing a Seriously Delinquent Debt. But, the IRS has discretion to exclude debts from Passport Certification, that are CNC.

What if I still can’t pay in the future?

If the IRS sends you a notice about your tax bill, call the number on the notice to discuss your financial situation. The IRS will take your updated information and decide if you still can't pay your IRS debt and meet your living expenses. Make sure you have all the information about your income and expenses before you call.

You may prevent future tax liabilities by adjusting your withholding, making estimated tax payments or Federal Tax Deposits.

New Tax Reform implementation changed the way the IRS calculates your federal tax. The IRS encourages everyone to perform a quick “paycheck checkup” to ensure you have the right amount withheld.

You may use the IRS withholding calculator to figure your federal income tax and withholding. The withholding calculator is a tool on IRS.gov designed to help you determine how to have the right amount of tax withheld from your paychecks.

When you use the withholding calculator, it will help you determine if you need to adjust your withholding and submit a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, to your employer.

If your IRS problem is causing you financial hardship, you've tried repeatedly and aren't receiving a response from the IRS, or you feel your taxpayer rights aren't being respected, consider contacting the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS).

Browse common tax issues and situations at Get Help.

You may be eligible for representation from an attorney, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or Enrolled Agent (EA) associated with a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) for little or no cost. Low Income Taxpayer Clinics also provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language.

Last modified March 6, 2020