Debt settlement and taxes: what you need to know

Debt settlement can be a smart way to reduce your debt and gain financial freedom. However, settling your debts can come with tax implications that you need to be aware of. In this article, we'll explore the relationship between debt settlement and taxes and discuss what you need to know.

What is Debt Settlement?

Debt settlement is a process by which you negotiate with your creditors to pay less than you owe. This usually involves hiring a debt settlement company to work on your behalf to negotiate with creditors to accept a lump sum payment that is less than the total amount you owe.

Debt settlement can be a good option if you're struggling with high credit card debt or other unsecured debts. It can help you avoid bankruptcy and get you back on track financially. However, debt settlement can also come with some downsides, including negative impacts on your credit score and potential tax implications.

What are the Tax Implications of Debt Settlement?

The tax implications of debt settlement depend on several factors, including the type of debt you have, the amount of debt you settle, and your tax situation. Here are some key things to know:

Canceled Debt is Taxable

When you settle a debt for less than you owe, the forgiven amount is considered canceled debt, which is taxable income. This means that you may have to pay taxes on the amount of debt that is forgiven. The creditor will send you a 1099-C form that reports the canceled debt, and you'll need to report it on your tax return.

Insolvency May Offer a Tax Exclusion

However, you may be able to exclude canceled debt from your taxable income if you were insolvent at the time the debt was settled. Insolvency means that your debts exceed your assets, and you'll need to prove this to the IRS using Form 982. If you qualify, you can exclude the forgiven debt from your taxable income.

Settlement Fees are Not Tax-Deductible

It's important to note that any fees you pay to a debt settlement company are not tax-deductible. This means that you can't deduct those fees on your tax return, regardless of whether you qualified for an exclusion for canceled debt.


Debt settlement can be a useful tool for reducing your debt and regaining financial stability. However, it's important to understand the potential tax implications of settling your debt. If you settle your debt for less than you owe, any forgiven amount may be taxable income. However, you may be able to exclude forgiven debt from your taxable income if you were insolvent when the debt was forgiven. Make sure to consult with a tax professional to fully understand the tax implications of debt settlement.