More Debt Settlement Company Sales Hype – the 1099-C Tax Issue

In March 11, 2009

Here we go again. Two different consumers have informed me that a “debt consultant” (i.e., sales rep) at a settlement company made a specific claim about the 1099-C taxable income issue. The pitch is that if the client handles the negotiation themselves, they will be issued 1099-Cs by the original creditors and the forgiven balances will be fully taxable. Naturally, they also claim that if their company is contracted to handle the negotiations, they have some special method for getting around the 1099-C issue.

So we have two lies in one sales claim. That takes real creativity (or desperation). The first lie is that the forgiven balance is fully taxable when you get a 1099-C. That is false for the majority of debt settlement clients, due to the “insolvency” exemption. If you have a negative net worth, the IRS permits you to exclude the 1099-C amounts from income up to the amount by which you are negative. Therefore most debt settlement clients don’t have to pay taxes on the 1099-C amounts.

The second falsehood is the claim that a settlement company has some method of avoiding the issuance of the 1099-C in the first place. Nonsense! This is a blatant lie, period.

I’m not sure what magic-bullet technique these guys are claiming to have for eliminating the 1099-C factor. One possibility is a truly stupid tactic where you dispute the forgiven balance – the exact opposite of what you want to achieve through the settlement process. I wrote about this a couple of years ago, in my blog post on “How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Debt Settlement Letter.”

Anyway, leaving aside idiotic tactics that will only backfire, it simply DOES NOT MATTER whether you settle the debt before or after charge-off. Either way, the creditor is REQUIRED BY LAW to issue a 1099-C for any forgiven amount of $600 or greater. Purposely waiting until after charge-off, the way one rep phrased the claim, does not create a path for avoiding the 1099-C. And if you were to follow this wonderful “advice,” it would also cost you some of the best potential settlements. (Some of the best deals available happen before the charge-off deadline via negotiation with the original creditors.)

What’s going on here is that it’s getting tougher and tougher for these settlement company sales reps to “close the deal.” Their huge fees are a tough sell, and smart consumers do their homework before signing a contract. Many of them find my website, realize that all is not as they were told, and start thinking about taking charge of the project with help from ZipDebt. The sales rep finds out they lost another big commission, and they start thinking of ways to convince people they should not handle their own settlement program. Hence the new “angle” on the tax issue.

Then again, now that I think of it, there may be some truth to their claim. Since many of their clients will either be forced into bankruptcy or get sued into paying back 100% of the debt anyway, then I suppose they can make the case that there will be no 1099-C forms issued. No settlements = no forgiven debt = no 1099-C next January. 🙂

Folks, don’t believe the hype. It’s YOUR debt. Step up to the plate and take responsibility for it. Steer clear of the settlement companies making false claims.



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