Glossary of Tax Terms

Abatement of Penalties

An abatement of penalties is the removal by the IRS of specific penalties that were added to the taxpayers’ account for a particular non-filing, non-payment, quarter, year or multiple years. The taxpayer is required to have reasonable cause that is specific for the penalty when submitting this request and must be able to explain why this reason should grant the penalties to be removed from their account.

Amended Tax Return

This is a tax return filed to make changes to a previously filed tax return. A taxpayer has 3 years from the due date of the original return or the actual date of filing to file an amended return. If filing amended returns, you must have a copy of the original return filed, along with an explanation and documentation as to what items need to be amended.


IRS administrative process for taxpayers to contest decisions within the IRS. Also known as the Appeals Division.


The cost of an asset owned by a taxpayer. The cost of the asset may be adjusted upwards by the cost of improvements or may be adjusted downward by depreciating the asset.

Burden of Proof

A formal legal requirement to provide persuasive information or evidence of the legitimacy of a claim. For tax returns, OICs, or requests for any resolution, the burden of proof to substantiate the claim or deduction rests with the individual or entity either required to sign the return or who submitted the claim.

Collection Division

That organizational arm of the IRS which has the mission of collecting delinquent taxes and securing delinquent tax returns for individuals, businesses, corporations, trusts, or any other entity that owes IRS money. The Service Center Collection Function, the Automated Collection Site, or the Field Collection Function is all part of the Collection Division. The revenue officer is required to collect against any Balance Due accounts.

Collection Information Statement (CIS)

IRS standard financial statements required from individuals and/or self-employed individuals (Form 433-A) and businesses (Form 433-B) that owe IRS taxes and have indicated an inability to pay the liability. IRS uses these forms to determine the taxpayers’ ability to pay in full by installment agreement or a hardship situation.

Collection Statute of Limitation

IRC Section 6503 places an express limit on the time in which the IRS may collect a tax. Normally, the Collection Statute is 10 years from the date of assessment, but can be extended under certain situations.

Community Property

A state law that creates a community upon marriage and all property acquired during the marriage is held as community property, with both the husband and the wife having a one-half interest in the community assets. Hence, the IRS can serve a Notice of Levy for the wife’s and husband’s separate liability. Community property states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.


All taxes are paid up to date and all returns required to file are filed to date. Therefore, if submitting an OIC, IA or status 53 for individuals’ request, the taxpayer must have all estimated tax payments paid to date and returns filed. If submitting an OIC or IA for a business, the taxpayer must have paid all taxes for the past two quarters and filed all returns.

Currently Non-Collectible

If the IRS determines that you cannot pay any of your tax liability, they may assign your account currently not collectible and temporarily delay collection until your financial condition improves. Being currently not collectible does not mean the liability goes away, it means the IRS has determined you cannot afford to pay the liability at this time. Prior to approving your request to delay collection, the IRS may ask you to complete a Collection Information Statement (Form 433-F, Form 433-A or Form 433-B) and provide proof of your financial status (this may include information about your assets and your monthly income and expenses). Your liability will increase because penalties and interest are charged until you pay the full amount.


An expense subtracted from adjusted gross income when calculating taxable income, such as for state and local taxes paid, charitable gifts, and certain types of interest payments or business expenses.


Failure to repay an outstanding liability as agreed.

Earned Income Tax Credit

A tax credit is given to qualified low-income wage earners, even if no income tax was withheld from the individuals’ pay.

Enrolled Agent

An Enrolled Agent (EA) is a federally-authorized tax practitioner who has technical expertise in the field of taxation and who is empowered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the Internal Revenue Service for audits, collections, and appeals.

What does the term Enrolled Agent mean?

Enrolled means to be licensed to practice by the federal government, and Agent means authorized to appear in the place of the taxpayer at the IRS. Only Enrolled Agents, tax attorneys, and CPAs may represent taxpayers before the IRS. The Enrolled Agent profession dates back to 1884 when, after questionable claims had been presented for Civil War losses, Congress acted to regulate persons who represented citizens in their dealings.

Enrolled Agent (EA) is a tax professional who has passed an IRS test covering all aspects of taxation, plus passed an IRS background check. Enrolled Agents have passed a two-day, 8-hour examination. The examination (called the Special Enrollment Examination) covers all aspects of federal tax law, including the taxation of individuals, corporations, partnerships, and various regulations governing IRS collections and audit procedures. Like CPAs and tax, EAs can handle any type of tax matter and represent their client’s interests before the IRS. Unlike CPAs and tax attorneys, Enrolled Agents are tested directly by the IRS, and enrolled agents focus exclusively on tax accounting. The “EA” designation may be revoked by the IRS’ Office of Professional Responsibility for malpractice.

How can Enrolled Agent help me?

Enrolled Agents advise, represent, and prepare tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts, and any entities with tax-reporting requirements. Enrolled Agents expertise in the continually changing field of taxation enables them to effectively represent taxpayers audited by the IRS.

Privilege and the Enrolled Agent: The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 allow federally authorized practitioners (those bound by the Department of Treasury’s Circular 230 regulations) a limited client privilege. This privilege allows confidentiality between the taxpayer and the Enrolled Agent under certain conditions. The privilege applies to situations in which the taxpayer is being represented in cases involving audits and collection matters. It is not applicable to the preparation and filing of a tax return. This privilege does not apply to state tax matters, although a number of states have an accountant-client privilege with the U.S. Treasury Department.

Equitable Relief

If a spouse does not qualify for innocent spouse relief or separation of liability, they may qualify for equitable relief. The taxpayer must show, under all facts and circumstances, that it would be unfair to be held liable for the understatement or underpayment of taxes.

Estimated Tax (ES) Payments

Tax payments made to IRS for the current tax year. Those taxpayers that do not have withholding taken out of their paycheck OR owed more than $1000 on the previous year’s tax return are required to pay estimated tax payments to the IRS for the current year. Taxpayers are supposed to estimate their income at the beginning of the year to determine their estimated tax liability. If they owe taxes when they file a return even though they have withholding, the IRS will penalize them if they do not pay estimates. Estimated payments allow taxpayers to remain in compliance with the payment demands of the IRS. ES payments are due the 15th day of April, June, and September of the current year and January of the following year.

If a taxpayer is required to make ES payments, and they want an OIC, the taxpayer must be current with all tax payments including ES payments prior to submitting an OIC. If the OIC is submitted between January and March, the taxpayer is not delinquent until he does not pay his first ES payment due April 15th. If they are not current with last year’s ES payments, an OIC can be submitted including last year’s liability. If an OIC has already been submitted, the taxpayer must continue to pay ES payments while the OIC is in review and until they have proper withholding and stop acquiring a liability. Since taxpayers are required to pay their taxes after the OIC is accepted, it is to the taxpayers’ benefit to start off in compliance by paying all estimates while the OIC is in review and not by adding that year to the current OIC.

Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA)

This is Social Security Tax. FICA consists of Social Security (supplemental retirement income) payroll tax and a Medicare (hospital insurance) tax. The tax is levied on employers, employees, and certain self-employed individuals. On some pay stubs, it may be listed as some form of Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI).

Federal Tax Deposit (FTD)

An employer must deposit employment taxes withheld (income tax withholding and FICA taxes) including the employers share of the FICA, either monthly or semi-weekly (depending on the amount of tax withheld) with an authorized commercial bank or Federal Reserve Bank.

Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA)

A federal tax paid by employers that provide for the administrative costs of a state unemployment compensation program for workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Only the employer pays FUTA tax, it is not deducted from the employee’s wages. This annual tax is reported on Form 940.


A wage garnishment is a legal process whereas a creditor (the IRS and state tax agencies) has obtained a judgment on a liability (IRS or state taxes) may obtain full or partial payment by seizure of a portion of a liability’s assets such as wages, bank account, etc.

IRS Form 1040- Individual Income Tax Return

Those individuals and married couples who are required to file with IRS must complete this return. **Form 1040EZ is for income less than $100,000, interest less than $1,500 and cannot be used if the taxpayer received the advanced earned income credit. Form 1040PC is a paper tax return prepared on a computer using the approved IRS tax preparation software.

IRS Form 1065- Return for business partnership income

Return for partnerships to report income and expenses for the previous tax year.

IRS Form 1120- Corporation Income Tax Return

Return for incorporated businesses to report income and expenses for the previous tax year.

IRS Form 940 – Annual Unemployment Tax Return

Use this form to report your annual Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax. Together with state unemployment tax systems, the FUTA tax provides funds for paying unemployment compensation to workers who have lost their jobs. Most employers pay both a federal and a state unemployment tax. Only employers pay FUTA tax. Do not collect or deduct FUTA tax from your employees’ wages.

IRS Form 941

Businesses that withhold payroll taxes on wages from their employees are required to file 941-Employers Quarterly Federal Tax Return. These are filed each calendar quarter i.e. January through March, filed April 30; April through June, filed July 31; July through September, filed October 31; and October through December, filed January 31. Any business that pays more than $2500 in net taxes is required to make quarterly deposits to authorized financial institutions. Again, IRS is trying to aid businesses in being compliant with paying their tax.

IRS Form W-2

Employers must provide employees with a statement of how much they earned in wages, tips and other compensation from the previous year in a W-2 form (by January 31 of each year). The form will reflect state and federal taxes, social security, Medicare wages, and tips withheld.

IRS Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate)

This form, completed by the employee, determines how much of the individual’s paycheck is withheld for federal income taxes.

Innocent Spouse

A spouse who unknowingly filed a joint return with their spouse who had reported an understatement of tax due to erroneous items. The unknowing spouse must prove that at the time the tax return was signed he/she did not know or have reason to know, there was an understatement of tax. Also with the fact and circumstances taken into consideration, it must show that it would be unfair to hold the unknowing (innocent) spouse liable for the understatement of tax. To request innocent spouse relief, the taxpayer must file Form 8857.

Installment Agreement (IA)

An agreement between the IRS and a taxpayer to allow the taxpayer to pay their delinquent liability over a specified period of time.

Itemized Deductions

Expenses claimed on an individual’s tax return (on Schedule A), that are subtracted from the adjusted gross income to determine taxable income. Examples of itemized deductions include medical expenses, taxes paid (other than federal taxes), interest, charitable contributions, and employee business expenses.


A Federal Tax Lien is formally recording in the appropriate public records office (county recorder, Secretary of State (UCC) or US District Court) in order to establish priority over creditors, judgment lien creditors and other lenders. Whether a taxpayer does or does not own any property, IRS will issue a lien against their SSN to hinder them from purchasing, selling or transferring any property. A lien will affect their credit report. If the taxpayer is preparing an OIC and it is accepted, the lien will be released once the OIC payment terms have been satisfied. If not preparing an OIC, the lien will be released when the tax liability is either paid in full or the statute to collect the tax has expired. The Internal Revenue Code of 1986 provides for a statutory lien of the Federal Government to be filed for a tax liability after a proper assessment, notice and demand, and a neglect or refusal to pay. Liens can be discharged or subordinated under special circumstances.

Lien Discharge

Removal of a lien on a specific piece of property to allow for its sale or disposal.

Lien Release

Issued by IRS when a tax liability is fully paid or if the taxpayer can prove they are suffering from financial hardship and are unable to provide for their family’s health and well being.

Lien Subordination

To set aside a lien temporarily to allow for a sale or refinance.

Master File

An IRS File consists of a series of runs, data records, and files that are in production with links to many of the other IRS systems. All businesses and individuals have an IRS Master File. Master files receive individual or business tax submissions in electronic format and process them through a pre-posting phase, posts the transactions, analyze the transactions and produce output in the form of Refund data, Notice data, Reports, and information feeds to other entities.


On the IRS Master File, the module of the return defines a specific return by its time frame. Form 1040, Individual Income Tax Return, is normally for a calendar year module and Form 941, Employers Quarterly Tax Return, is for a 3-month quarterly module during a calendar year i.e. March 31st, June 30th, September 30th, and December 31st). (Same as the term period.)

Monthly Disposable Income

Any positive amount remaining after the taxpayer’s necessary monthly living expenses are subtracted from their monthly income. MDI is used to help calculate the taxpayer’s RCP (reasonable collection potential) for OIC purposes.

Notice of Federal Tax Lien

Whether a taxpayer does or does not own any property, IRS will issue a lien against their SSN to hinder them from purchasing, selling or transferring any property. A lien will affect their credit report. If the taxpayer is preparing an OIC and it is accepted, the lien will be released once the OIC payment terms have been satisfied. If not preparing an OIC, the lien will be released when the tax liability is either paid in full or the statute to collect the tax has expired. *The Internal Revenue Code of 1986 provides for a statutory lien of the Federal Government to be filed for a tax liability after a proper assessment, notice and demand, and a neglect or refusal to pay. Liens can be discharged or subordinated under special circumstances. **A Federal Tax Lien is formally recording in the appropriate public records office (county recorder, Secretary of State (UCC) or US District Court) in order to establish priority over creditors, judgment lien creditors and other lenders.

Notice of Levy

A notice of levy is a notice that the IRS or state is seizing assets. This notice is served upon a third party that attaches wages, bank accounts, and other personal property.

Offer In Compromise

Code Section 7122 authorized the Commissioner or his delegate the authority to compromise most tax liabilities. An OIC is an agreement between the IRS and taxpayer that allows the taxpayer’s delinquent tax liability to be compromised for less than the amount owed. The offered dollar amount is based on the taxpayer’s net worth plus their future income potential.

An offer in compromise is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that resolves the taxpayer’s tax liability. The IRS has the authority to settle, or “compromise,” federal tax liabilities by accepting less than full payment under certain circumstances. A tax liability can be legally compromised for one of the following reasons:

  • Doubt as to Liability – Doubt exists that the assessed tax is correct.
  • Doubt as to Collectibility – Doubt exists that you could ever pay the full amount of tax owed.

Effective Tax Administration – There is no doubt the tax is correct, and no doubt that the amount owed could be collected, but an exceptional circumstance exists that allows the IRS to consider a taxpayer’s OIC. To be eligible for a compromise on this basis, the taxpayer must demonstrate that the collection of the tax would create an economic hardship or would be unfair and inequitable. The objective of the OIC program is to accept a compromise when it is in the best interests of both the taxpayer and the government and promotes voluntary compliance with all future payment and filing requirements.

The IRS will accept an Offer in Compromise (OIC) when it is unlikely that the tax liability can be collected in full and the amount offered reasonably reflects collection potential. The ultimate goal is a compromise that is in the best interest of the taxpayer and the IRS. Acceptance of an adequate offer will also result in creating, for the taxpayer, an expectation of a fresh start toward complying with all future filing and payment requirements. The OIC process is based on a liability-to-asset formula devised by the IRS.

Power of attorney

The legal form giving an authorized individual (Certified Public Accountant, Enrolled Agent, or attorney, etc) authority to represent a taxpayer before the Internal Revenue Service.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order

A state court can allocate an interest in a qualified retirement plan to a former spouse through a qualified domestic relations order. Payments made to a former spouse as the result of QDRO will not result in the taxpayer being assessed a penalty for early withdrawal from the plan; the former spouse will be taxed on the benefits when received, or the benefits can be rolled over tax-free into an IRA or other qualified retirement plans.

Reasonable Collection Potential

The total realizable value of the taxpayer’s assets plus any future income. The total is generally the minimum Offer in Compromise amount.

RCP Equation:

Total Income – Total Expenses = MDI (Monthly Disposable Income)
MDI x FIP Factor (Future Income Potential) = Future Income
Future Income + Equity in Assets = RCP

Recovery Period

The period of time, normally in years, over which the basis (cost) of an item of property is recovered (by depreciation).


When an individual has more tax withheld from their wages than what is owed on their tax return, this difference results in an overpayment of taxes or a refund.

Refund Statute Expiration Date

A taxpayer may request a refund of an overpayment within three years from the time the return was filed or within two years from the time the tax was paid, whichever is later. If no return was filed by the taxpayer, the claim must be filed within two years from the time the tax was paid (IRC 6511(a)).

Schedule C – Profit and Loss from Business

When a taxpayer has an unincorporated business and is a sole proprietor business owner, they are required to file taxes on Schedule C attached to their Form 1040. Schedule C allows taxpayers to deduct the expenses incurred during the tax year they conducted business from the gross income received. Schedule C taxpayers are required to pay half of their Self-Employment tax since they work for themselves. Any liability incurred by a sole proprietor will be recorded as a 1040 liability under the taxpayer’s SSN and can be found on their IMF (Individual Master File). **Taxpayers need to be able to prove the figures listed on 1040, Schedule C.

Schedule K-1 – Partner’s Share of Income, Credit, Deductions

Each partner within the partnership uses this Schedule K-1 to report his or her share of the partnerships income, credits, deductions, etc. This form is not filed with IRS but is simply a record-keeping requirement. Even though partnerships are not generally subject to income tax, each individual partner is liable for tax on their share of the partnership income, whether or not it is distributed.

Self Employment Tax

Self-employment tax is the social security and Medicare tax for people who work for themselves. When an individual pays self-employment tax, they are contributing to their coverage under the social security system. This differs from wage earners who have social security taxes taken from their wages. An individual must pay self-employment tax if: 1) the net earnings from self-employment are $400 or more OR, 2) Services are performed for a church as an employee and $108.28 or more is received.

Statute of Limitation

The IRS has set specific time periods before the expiration of certain actions, i.e. to collect a tax, make an assessment to an account, to request a refund, to file bankruptcy, etc.

Subordination of Federal Tax Lien

The legal process whereby the IRS will subordinate its Federal Tax Lien to a third party by temporarily setting aside the lien to enable a refinance or sale of a piece of property. Normally the IRS must determine that it is in its best interest to subordinate, which translates, What are we going to get out of this?

Substitute for Return

If a taxpayer has not filed a return and the IRS feels it can collect from the money earned, an IRS Revenue Officer may file a SFR. When a SFR is filed, the agent lists all of the income reported to the IRS for that year, but only gives the taxpayer one exemption and only the standard deduction, i.e. nothing is itemized. Even if for the past 10 years the taxpayer has itemized, the IRS prepares the return in their favor. If the taxpayer has children the IRS tries to file the return based on the information from the previous years, i.e. married filing jointly with 2 children. But IRS will only file this way if they have previous returns showing this info.


Not subject to tax. Normally this refers to charitable and other qualified organizations, but can also refer to a specific exempt income of individuals.

Tax Exemptions

The amount allowed by the Code for a personal exemption (for an individual and spouse if filing a joint return) and for a dependency exemption (for a taxpayers dependents). In 2004, each exemption was worth $3100 as a deduction from adjusted gross income.

 Tax Laws

The body of law created by congressional action that governs the entire administrative process of the tax system. Officially known as Title 26, Unites States Code, it is more commonly known as the Internal Revenue Code or the Code. Interpretation of the Code begins with the IRS, and will ultimately end with the interpretation provided by the judicial system.

Tax Liability

The total tax bill that an individual or business owes after all withholding (individuals), Federal Tax Deposits (businesses), Estimated Tax Payments (individuals, sole proprietorships & corporations), and payments attached to the tax return are submitted and credited by the IRS.

Tax Return

Any federal, state, or local tax return (personal income tax, corporate income tax, employer quarterly tax return, excise tax return, estate tax return, partnership tax return, fiduciary tax return, or any other return) required by law to be filed to report income, taxes withheld, sales tax, etc.

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