It can be pretty stress-inducing to find out you owe money to the IRS. Maybe you’re a small business owner who had fewer deductions this year, or maybe you added a side hustle and didn’t set aside enough money to pay the self-employment tax.
As a simple solution, you might be wondering: “Can I pay my taxes with a credit card?”
The answer is yes. The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 makes it legal, and it’s not difficult. In fact, thanks to all the great sign up bonus cards out there, there are benefits to putting your tax bill on a card even if you do have cash on hand.
How to pay taxes with a credit card
The IRS allows you to make both credit and debit card payments, and it’s a pretty simple process. On its website, information is provided regarding fees, additional stipulations, and contact information for three service providers who are authorized by the IRS to process payments. You can make the payment online, by calling the service provider’s payment hotline, or on your mobile device.
The three service providers — PayUSAtax, Pay1040, and OfficialPayments — accept payments from Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, STAR, Pulse, NYCE, Visa Checkout and American Express Checkout. In addition, PayUSAtax and Pay1040 accept MasterPass. PayUSAtax is the only service provider that allows you to pay through PayPal.
Depending on the payment amount, you’ll pay a flat rate or percentage fee to use each of these service providers.
Typically, this amounts to just under 2% of the total amount you owe the IRS. For a $1,000 tax bill, that’s about $20. This may vary by service provider and exact amount owed though, so always use their calculation tools for an accurate estimate of fees.
Pros and cons of paying taxes with a credit card
Not sure if paying your taxes with a credit card is a good idea? Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons.
- You may be able to get points or cash back rewards that are equal to or greater than the fee charged by the service provider. This is especially true if you have a new card with a sign up bonus, like the Discover it® Cash Back card, which doubles the cash back in the first year. Some cards also offer cash back bonuses when you charge a certain amount in the first few months.
- You can charge the tax bill to a card with an introductory 0% APR rate and pay it back in interest-free installments.
- You’ll remain in control of your own tax burden without involving the IRS, which will save you time and possibly some stress.
- You’re typically not going to earn premium rewards on the taxes you owe. Most cards offer 1% cash back on this type of purchase as it doesn’t fall into any of the rotating cash back or reward points categories.
- You might end up further in debt if you can’t pay the balance off in full. This is especially true if you can’t qualify for a card with an introductory 0% APR rate, which lets you carry the balance interest-free for several months.
- You could get a hit on your credit report if the extra debt affects your credit utilization score.
When does it make sense to pay taxes with a credit card?
There can be concrete benefits to paying your taxes with a credit card if you have a dedicated plan to pay the debt off, particularly if you use a card that has both an introductory 0% APR and a sign up bonus.
The bonus cash amount should be larger than the fee charged by the service provider you choose, and you need to be dedicated to paying back the entire charge before the introductory rate expires. If you are certain you can meet both those criteria, then this option leaves you better off than if you had simply cut a check to the IRS.
Alternatives to paying taxes with a credit card
Even if you don’t qualify for a card with a sign-up bonus or you’re fearful of getting further behind with your credit card debt, there are additional options.
The IRS allows you to apply for a payment plan, and the interest they charge is much lower than what you might pay when carrying the balance on an average credit card.
Here are the basic options:
- You can delay payment for 120 days if your tax bill is less than $100,000. If you choose this short-term payment plan, you’ll pay around 5.5% interest, plus a late fee of 0.25% each month. (These payments will be deducted from your checking account by the IRS if the tax bill is more than $25,000.)
- You can opt to make long-term installment payments through the IRS as well. This option comes with fees, including a $31 online setup fee, a late fee of 0.25% of your balance each month and interest of 3%, plus the federal short-term rate. The interest compounds daily.
The bottom line
Paying your tax bill with your credit card is doable, and it can put you ahead of the game, but it only works when you are eligible for a card with a sign up bonus, an introductory 0% APR rate or both.
You also have to be diligent about sticking to the payment plan you impose on yourself. Otherwise, it’s better to set up a payment plan with the IRS. They charge interest and fees, but these are much lower than the interest you’ll pay to carry debt on the average credit card.