Here’s the scenario: You filed your tax return and found out that you owe money, but you can’t afford to pay the tax bill. For most, paying taxes gradually throughout the year means you won’t owe much come tax day (or you might even get a refund), but if your life situation changes, you can be left with a bill. 

First things first: Don’t skip out on filing your return just because you can’t afford to pay. File your forms on time to avoid failure-to-pay penalties, which can quickly add up. 

Once you file, you’ll need to pay on time to avoid additional penalties, which can include liens on your property, garnishment of wages, and in the most extreme situations, jail time. Don’t stress out—there are a few options to help you pay your tax bill.

  • Use your credit card 
    • You can charge your tax liability to your credit card for a convenience fee of about 2%. This will help you avoid those penalties, but you’ll be left paying more in the long run with the convenience fee and your credit card’s annual percentage rate (APR). 
  • Get a debt consolidation loan
    • Another option is to apply for a debt consolidation loan from your bank or credit union. Again, you’ll end up paying more than you originally owed due to the addition of interest with the loan. 
  • Apply for an installment agreement 
    • If you need a few months to pay, you can apply for an installment agreement online through You’ll still have penalties and interest, but the IRS will not be able to take an enforced collection action. 
  • Apply for a payment extension 
    • While it’s pretty rare for the IRS to grant a payment extension, if you have undue hardship preventing you from paying, you can file to request a six-month payment extension. You’ll need to file Form 1127 along with a statement of your current assets and liabilities and all the money you’ve received and spent in the last three months. 
  • Take out a home equity line of credit (HELOC)
    • If you own a home and have equity, you can borrow from yourself through a home equity line of credit. These are loans with lower interest rates in comparison to credit cards, but your house will serve as collateral. If you default, it could cause you to lose your house. 
  • Dip into your emergency fund
    • If you have an emergency fund, you can treat it like an interest-free loan and use it to pay off your tax bill. Just make sure you start replenishing the funds with every paycheck.