Sarah Edwards | February 24, 2023
Summary: If you have settled a debt recently, you probably owe taxes on the settlement unless the debt was cancelled as a gift or inheritance, met certain student loan cancellations, occurred as a result of bankrupcty, or you were insolvent. If you want to settle, make an offer with SoloSettle.
You've managed to eliminate your debt through settlement, and you're happily moving on with your life, no longer worried about meeting monthly minimum payments or missing them altogether.
One January afternoon, you open your mailbox to discover a notification from your old lender. What's in the notification? A 1099-C, especially for you. Cue the irritation!
Your 1099-C indicates that you have discharged debt through a settlement agreement during the past year. According to the notice, an amount of $6,000 was forgiven by your credit card lender. This notice matches what you recall, but you're unsure what the notice means. Do you pay taxes on debt? What should you do?
The IRS has certain rules regarding the cancellation of debt. In some cases, you will owe taxes, but in others, you won't. For credit card debt that you've managed to settle through an agreement, any debt that was forgiven should be included as income. Specific language that the IRS uses indicates that:
“If you receive a Form 1099-C, that means an applicable entity has reported an identifiable event to the IRS regarding a debt you owe. Unless you meet one of the exceptions or exclusions, this canceled debt is ordinary income and must be reported on the appropriate form.” (IRS, 2021 Publication 4681)
Generally, you will need to include the debt that was forgiven as ordinary income on your tax return unless you meet certain criteria. This rule means it will be taxable.
Most canceled debt will be counted as ordinary income unless it meets certain criteria. If the debt is canceled under the following circumstances, you may not need to include it as ordinary income:
If your debt was canceled in any of the above situations, then you may not need to include it as ordinary income. There are a few other exceptions, but they are a bit more rare and won't apply to the majority of individuals.
You can consult the IRS Publication 4681 guidelines if you feel you might qualify for special circumstances, such as if your debt pertained to farming or a business.
The IRS advises that if you are responsible for the student loan, and it is canceled or repaid by someone else, then you must include that amount as ordinary income. However, if you meet certain exceptions, you may not have to do so.
For example, teachers who have their loans forgiven due to their employment in specific facilities, such as designated inner-city schools, may not need to include their canceled debt as ordinary income.
There is also a special rule introduced for 2021 through 2025. This rule allows individuals with canceled student loans obtained from private lenders or for postsecondary educational expenses to be excluded from ordinary income.
This rule generally applies to all student loan debt for undergraduate or graduate-level expenses that is canceled during these years.
Individuals who have filed and had their debt canceled through bankruptcy will not need to include the amount canceled as ordinary income for the year. This rule includes Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. To qualify, the debt canceled must have been approved by the court or have been part of a plan approved by the court.
Insolvency, as defined by the IRS, means that:
“You were insolvent immediately before the cancellation to the extent that the total of all of your liabilities was more than the FMV of all of your assets immediately before the cancellation. For purposes of determining insolvency, assets include the value of everything you own.” (IRS, 2021 Publication 4681)
The IRS provides an insolvency worksheet to help you determine whether you were insolvent prior to the cancellation of your debt. The insolvency exclusion is one of the most common ways to prevent canceled debt from being included as ordinary income on the tax return.
So do you pay taxes on debt? If you don't meet any of the common exemptions, you'll most likely need to include your canceled debt as ordinary income on your tax return. Before doing so, double-check IRS 2021 Publication 4681 to make sure you don't qualify for any of the less-common exemptions.
If you file form 1040 or 1040 SR, the amount of your canceled debt will be included as other income on line 8. It will also be included as a supporting amount for Schedule 1. This setup means that it will be included as part of the income you earned during the prior year and will be taxable.
If you typically receive a refund after you file your taxes, your refund may be less than you expect, or you may find out that you owe taxes, depending on the amount that is canceled and your overall financial situation.
Should you find that you do owe taxes, hopefully, it doesn't cause too much of an issue, and you will be able to pay them on time. The IRS offers several options to pay taxes over an extended period of time if you're unable to pay what you owe by the deadline.
To learn more about debt settlement and taxes, check out this video:
You can start the debt settlement process by sending an offer for free with SoloSettle to the party suing you. Keep in mind that, on average, debts can be settled for 45% of the original amount. By settling your debt, you can avoid going to court and paying for court costs and attorney fees.
SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.
You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.
SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.
"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James
You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now or are just looking for support, we're here for you.
Here's a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? Were making guides on how to beat each one.
Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.
Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.