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Are you a small business owner who can’t afford your tax bill?

Federal taxes are due on April 17 this year, but those extra two days won’t help small business owners fix a looming tax bill. If you haven’t set aside enough to pay your business’s income taxes, what can you do?

Don’t panic. Realize that you’re not the first business owner to make this mistake. There are reliable ways of dealing with the problem. Here are a few good tips.

What NOT to do when you don’t have enough to pay the IRS

Don’t avoid filing your tax return. Ideally, you would file and pay at the same time, but it’s better to file and not pay than not to file at all. The IRS penalties for not filing are higher than for nonpayment — 5 percent of your unpaid taxes every month or partial month until you file that return. Plus interest.

Instead, file your taxes and ask for an extension. Make a partial payment, if possible. The extension doesn’t give you extra, penalty-free time to pay — you’ll still owe late-payment penalties and interest on any unpaid amount.

Don’t skip payroll taxes. If you can afford some but not all of the taxes your company owes, be sure to pay payroll taxes first. You could be held personally liable for any failure to pay these.

Payment options to consider

The current interest rate the IRS charges is 4 percent on the unpaid balance, and the penalty is 0.5 percent for each month (including partial months) that you owe. Any alternative payment option you choose should be less expensive.

Working with the IRS, it’s likely your best option is a simple installment plan. The IRS has to approve the plan, and the availability of certain plans depends on your specific tax situation. In many cases, you can apply online. You may also qualify for an offer in compromise or a temporary collection delay.

You may want to lend your business money from a personal account. If so, you should set up a formal agreement and the business should pay you at least a small amount of interest. If you do not, the IRS could consider the loan a taxable gift to the business.

Be wary before using money from a tax-advantaged retirement account. If you’re under 59-1/2, you’ll automatically owe a 10 percent penalty. The amount you withdraw will be subject to local, state and federal taxes next year.

You could get the money from a bank or credit card. Do the math — the interest you pay may be higher than the penalties and interest the IRS would charge.

Finally, a tax attorney can help you deal with a tax delinquency, especially in more complex situations.

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