Kathleen Barlow

Strategies for Paying an Unexpected Tax Bill

Strategies for Paying an Unexepected Tax Bill

  • 03.02.18
  • Planning & Retirement
  • Article

If you're surprised by a tax bill, consider ways to pay without interrupting your financial plan.

Many working Americans expect a refund come tax day, but this year, some of us may get an unexpected bill instead. So what happens if you fall into that camp?

First, stay calm. Secondly, think strategically about how to pay what you owe, particularly if your money is invested, earmarked for retirement or stashed away in an emergency fund. Lastly, put plans in place to include more tax-mitigating strategies into your financial plan. Doing so can help avoid this situation next year.

If you do find yourself obliged to pay, perhaps you can rely on one of these options to help you settle up with the IRS and keep your financial plan undisturbed and on track.

Actions to Take

Make sure it’s not a mistake. Review your return with your accountant to make sure you’ve included every exemption and credit for which you qualify.

Consider taking out a low-interest rate loan. If you really do owe Uncle Sam a large chunk of change, a securities-based line of credit or a home equity loan may be a more cost-effective way to pay instead of selling securities that are part of your long-term investment plan. These types of loans can offer quick liquidity and flexibility to help you meet your tax obligation, at competitive interest rates. And you may be able to avoid capital gains taxes that could result from selling appreciated investments.

Carefully select investments that could be sold for additional liquidity. In some cases, selling securities to capture capital losses or rebalance a portfolio is a good idea. Talk to your advisor about securities that could be harvested for capital losses or ones that you can sell to help bring your portfolio back into alignment with your long-term goals. Another possible benefit? Unused realized capital losses may be available to offset future tax bills. Please remember that the process of rebalancing may result in tax consequences.

If Possible, Avoid …

An unfavorable offer in compromise. The IRS may negotiate an offer in compromise (OIC) to help you settle your bill for less than you owe. However, be aware that there are associated costs, including a filing fee.

Paying with a high-interest-rate credit card. This kind of debt can negatively impact your credit score and quickly rack up fees, making it harder to pay down the principal. Even though the IRS also charges interest (federal short-term rate plus 3%), it’s far lower than most credit card companies.

Taking money from your retirement accounts. It’s not a great idea to undermine a long-term plan by withdrawing funds early. You’ll be faced with penalties, as well as additional taxes on the amount you take out, which could mean you won’t have as much to pay your tax bill as you thought. And you’ll have even less for retirement.

Plan Ahead

If you do end up owing taxes, talk to your tax and financial advisors about other ways you can pay the bill without disrupting your investment plan or depleting savings. If you anticipate owing taxes again, you may also want to discuss investment and tax-saving strategies to reduce your liability next year and beyond.


A Securities Based Line of Credit (SBLC) may not be suitable for all clients. The proceeds from an SBLC cannot be used to purchase or carry margin securities. Raymond James Bank does not accept RJF stock as pledged securities towards an SBLC. Borrowing on securities based lending products and using securities as collateral may involve a high degree of risk including unintended tax consequences and the possible need to sell your holdings, which may lead to a significant impact on long-term investment goals. Market conditions can magnify any potential for loss. If the market turns against the client, he or she may be required to quickly deposit additional securities and/or cash in the account(s) or pay down the loan to avoid liquidation. The securities in the Pledged Account(s) may be sold to meet the Collateral Call, and the firm can sell the client’s securities without contacting them. A client is not entitled to choose which securities or other assets in his or her account are liquidated or sold to meet a Collateral Call. The firm can increase its maintenance requirements at any time and is not required to provide a client advance written notice. A client is not entitled to an extension of time on a Collateral Call. Increased interest rates could also affect LIBOR rates that apply to your SBLC, causing the cost of the credit line to increase significantly. The interest rates charged are determined by the market value of pledged assets and the net value of the client’s Capital Access account.

Securities Based Line of Credit provided by Raymond James Bank. Raymond James & Associates, Inc. and Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. are affiliated with Raymond James Bank.

Please note, changes in tax laws may occur at any time and could have a substantial impact upon each person's situation. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, Raymond James Financial Advisors are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.