An offer in compromise (OIC) happens when the IRS and the taxpayer settle past due taxes for an amount that is less than the full amount owed. This typically happens when the agency agrees with the taxpayer that the payment in full will create a financial burden.
“For taxpayers facing an economic hardship, the anticipation of a refund may be the safety pin holding together a family’s ability to meet basic living expenses, especially for taxpayers relying on the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit that Congress intended for subsistence of low-income taxpayers,” National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins said in a recent blog post discussing the changes, which went into effect in November. She added that it will also help those who are struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The blog notes that the filing of an amended return could cause the refund to be applied to an existing debt rather than being sent to the taxpayer.
Additionally, the agency announced that certain taxpayers will be able to seek an offset bypass refund while OIC decisions are pending, although taxpayers need to be proactive in contacting the IRS if they want an offset bypass refund, as there is no formal form to request it.