How Does the IRS Determine How Much You Pay?

Posted by Siegel Tax Law on March 2, 2012

The IRS uses its “Collection Financial Standards” to determine a taxpayer’s ability to pay a delinquent tax liability. Allowable living expenses include those expenses that meet the necessary expense test.  The necessary expense test is defined as expenses that are necessary to provide for a taxpayer’s (and his or her family’s) health and welfare and/or production of income.

National Standards for food, clothing and other items apply nationwide. Taxpayers are allowed the total National Standards amount for their family size, without questioning the amount actually spent.

National Standards have also been established for minimum allowances for out-of-pocket health care expenses. Taxpayers and their dependents are allowed the standard amount on a per person basis, without questioning the amount actually spent.

Maximum allowances for housing and utilities and transportation, known as the Local Standards, vary by location. In most cases, the taxpayer is allowed the amount actually spent, or the local standard, whichever is less.

Generally, the total number of persons allowed for necessary living expenses should be the same as those allowed as exemptions on the taxpayer’s most recent year income tax return.

If the IRS determines that the facts and circumstances of a taxpayer’s situation indicate that using the standards is inadequate to provide for basic living expenses, the Service may allow for actual expenses. However, taxpayers must provide documentation that supports a determination that using national and local expense standards leaves them an inadequate means of providing for basic living expenses.

Local Standards: Housing and Utilities

For example, the housing and utilities standards are derived from U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, and BLS data, and are provided by state down to the county level. The standard for a particular county and family size includes both housing and utilities allowed for a taxpayer’s primary place of residence.

Housing and Utility standards include monthly expenses for mortgage or rent, property taxes, interest, insurance, maintenance, repairs, gas, electric, water, heating oil, garbage collection, residential telephone service, cell phone service, cable television, and internet service.  The tables include five categories for one, two, three, four, and five or more persons in a household. Consult a tax attorney in Kansas City should you have any questions.

The standards for Johnson County, Kansas are:

Family Size






Johnson County, KS