Your accountant probably doesn’t want you to pay your taxes with a credit card.
But there are special cases in which using a credit card for your tax bill may be a necessary last resort or help you save with bonus rewards. Here’s what you need to know about paying your taxes with a credit card, the consequences you could face in doing so, and how to determine whether it might be worth it for you this tax season.
The IRS provides a few third-party payment processing options for taxpayers who want to use credit cards. Under each of these processors, the following are additional fees to pay with your credit card for your tax payment.
Fees are higher for the following integrated IRS e-file and e-pay service providers:
These fees are for payments made directly through these payment companies, which you can find on the IRS’ website. You can also pay your taxes with a credit card if you use a tax preparation service with e-file and e-pay, such as TurboTax, though different — and generally higher — fees will apply.
The IRS does cap the number of card payments allowed. This is something to consider if you plan to make multiple payments toward your balance over tax season rather than one payment in full, or if you make estimated quarterly payments. The maximums vary based on the year and the tax forms you file, but generally Form 1040 payments are limited to two per year and Form 1040-ES estimated taxes are limited to two card payments per quarter. You can find the full rundown from the IRS here.
It is possible to pay your taxes owed with plastic, but does that mean you should? Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you decide:
With today’s average credit card APRs above 15% (and many reaching upwards of 20%), charging a large tax payment to your card without a firm payoff plan can lead to exponentially more money owed in interest over time.
If you already carry a debt balance which your taxes will only add to, using your credit card should only be a last resort — and even then, you’re probably better off working with the IRS to establish a payment plan or file an extension. These plans still carry interest and fees, but they’re much less costly than credit card interest you’ll accrue over the same payoff period.
If you’re facing a period of financial hardship and are unable to pay the taxman what you owe in full, an IRS attorney on our team can negotiate an IRS payment plan as the tax agency offers multiple payment options to make payments more manageable. When working with our tax lawyers, you must file an IRS Form 9465 before selecting one of the five types of installment agreements best suited for you. Before resorting to charging your balance to a high-interest credit card, apply for one of these first.
These payment plans work similarly to loans: you’ll pay your taxes owed over time (up to 60 months) through monthly installments. But they’re not free. There’s a one-time setup fee, as well as accrued penalties and interest until your balance is paid in full (you can find more information about specific costs on this IRS webpage).
You should also be wary of potential damage charging your taxes to a credit card could have on your credit score. Credit utilization ratio is a major factor in your score calculation, and if you charge a large amount in taxes, it could take up a significant portion of your available credit, resulting in a drop in your credit score.
If you’re planning to apply for a loan in the near future, refinance your mortgage or any other activity that could be affected by a temporary credit hit, you should take that into consideration.
If you need to carry that tax balance month-to-month, paying it off over time, your credit score could suffer longer-term damage. If you’re unable to get your utilization back to a healthy ratio quickly, that dip could turn into a long-term trend. And using up much of your available credit limit leaves you with little wiggle room if you find yourself in need of available credit in the future.
While you can pay your taxes with a credit card, it may not be the most cost-effective option or most beneficial for your long-term financial health, though there are exceptions for responsible credit users looking to earn extra rewards. It's recommended that you compare the fees and interest you’ll incur against any benefits you may get before making your payment.
To learn more about paying your taxes with a credit card or to get a tax lawyer to represent you before the IRS, contact a member of our team at 1-800-290-8160 today.