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Are you curious about the Fresh Start Program (Taxpayer Relief Initiative)? We explain what it is, who qualifies, and how it can help you get out of tax debt.


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What is the Fresh Start Program?

The Fresh Start Program provided by the IRS helps taxpayers who have a tax debt by assisting taxpayers and small businesses. It is an IRS repayment plan. Changes implemented by the program largely revolved around tax liens, installment agreements, the IRS Offer in Compromise (OIC), and being placed in Currently not Collectible (IRS Hardship) status. 

You may be asking yourself, "Is there a Fresh Start Program for me?" The answer to this question will depend entirely on your current financial circumstances. Our IRS professionals can get to the bottom of your IRS tax problems and provide you with solid tax relief options. Here’s a little more information on the Fresh Start Program:

1. who will qualify,

2. what kind of tax relief will the Fresh Start Initiative provide you with, and

3. how you can advantage of the fresh start program.

What is the Fresh Start Program?

The Fresh Start Program isn't really all that new. If you search for the IRS Fresh Start Initiative on the IRS’s website, it gives you nothing on the subject. That’s because the Fresh Start Program goes back to 2011 when these newly designed rules focused on taxpayers who owed back taxes but had no federal tax liens filed against them.


Due to COVID-19 and the backlog of tax debt to collect, the IRS has enhanced the Fresh Start Program with a new "Taxpayer Relief Initiative." You can read about this new IRS directive, click here: TAXPAYER RELIEF INITIATIVE

The Fresh Start Program was designed to give taxpayers buried in tax debt a second chance to get themselves right, and it included:

a. Raising the dollar amount that triggered Federal Tax Liens being filed from $5,000 to $10,000 initially and then to $25,000 a few months later. These changes quickly resulted in fewer federal tax liens being filed.

b. Making it easier to have a tax lien released once the tax liability was paid off.

Withdrawing tax liens more frequently when an individual taxpayer entered into a Direct Debit Installment Agreement.

c. Making Installment Agreements (IAs) easier to obtain for small businesses.

d. Streamlining and expanding the qualifications of the Offer in Compromise (OIC) program to make it easier to qualify and use for more taxpayers.


Back in 2012, the IRS expanded its Fresh Start Program, making it available to even more taxpayers. Revisions included:

1. An easing of how the IRS calculated a taxpayer’s future income when considering an OIC.

2. Expanding what types and amounts of expenses (including allowable living expenses, student loans, and state and local tax debts) the IRS would consider reasonable and relevant when determining how much a taxpayer could afford to pay every month.

These changes saw the IRS taking a more realistic view of taxpayers struggling to pay their bills. While the program was still based on specific formulas, the IRS worked to include real-life situations.

Who is qualified for the Fresh Start Program?

Individual taxpayers who will accept paying their tax debt over time through an installment agreement with a direct payment structure can benefit from using the IRS Fresh Start Initiative when:

a. The taxpayer owes less than $50,000 or can pay a larger liability down to that amount.

b. The tax debt can be paid off the remaining debt in 60 months or less.

It’s the first time falling behind on tax payments with the IRS.

c. The taxpayer agrees to the direct payment installment agreement

d. Their tax returns are up-to-date through the most current tax year.

e. They maintain the installment agreement, stay current with tax filings, and don’t incur new tax debt during the period the installment agreement is in effect.

f. They file for an OIC and can pay the agreed settlement amount off within 12 months.

If a taxpayer can qualify for the Fresh Start Program, certain bonus items may also come into play:

1. If a taxpayer owes less than $25,000 or can pay their initial liability down below that amount, they may be eligible for the withdrawal of a federal tax lien.

2. A first-time tax debtor is also eligible for an abatement of specific penalties under these revised guidelines.

For businesses, the IRS Fresh Start regulations are applicable when:

a. A business owes less than $25,000 and can be paid within 34 months.

b. Your business is current with federal tax filings and payments.

c. It’s the first time falling behind on tax payments with the IRS.

As a bonus for qualifying, a business may qualify for the abatement of specific penalties.

How can I learn more about the Fresh Start Program?

That's an easy one to answer. You can call Flat Fee Tax Relief. Take advantage of our free, no-obligation consultation. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It could be the best 20 minutes you have ever invested in yourself.

The Fresh Start Program is a way to help businesses and individuals get real tax debt relief. But there are very specific parameters around the Fresh Start Program. It’s always best to work alongside an experienced tax professional to help you understand whether you qualify and how you can benefit from the Fresh Start Program.