Skip to main content

Can You Buy a House If You Owe Taxes?

Purchasing a house is a significant milestone for many individuals and families, but it’s not uncommon for aspiring homeowners to have outstanding tax obligations. If you owe taxes to the government, you may wonder if it’s still possible to buy a house.

While owing taxes can impact your financial situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that homeownership is out of reach. In this article, we will explore the implications of owing taxes and discuss the possibilities of buying a house while having tax debt.

By understanding the factors involved and exploring potential solutions, you can make informed decisions about your homeownership goals while addressing your tax obligations.

Can You Buy a House If You Owe Taxes?

If you owe taxes to the government, you might be concerned about how it could affect your ability to buy a house. While having tax debt can certainly complicate the home buying process, it doesn’t necessarily mean that homeownership is off the table. Here’s what you need to know about buying a house when you owe taxes:

  • Impact on Credit Score: Owing taxes can potentially impact your credit score, which plays a crucial role in the mortgage approval process. A lower credit score may result in higher interest rates or even difficulty obtaining a mortgage. It’s essential to monitor your credit score and take steps to improve it if necessary.
  • Lender Requirements: Lenders typically consider your debt-to-income ratio when evaluating your mortgage application. This ratio compares your monthly debt payments, including any tax liabilities, to your gross monthly income. High levels of tax debt may affect your debt-to-income ratio, making it more challenging to qualify for a mortgage. However, lenders have different requirements, and some may be more lenient than others.
  • Tax Liens and Mortgage Approval: If you owe a significant amount in taxes, the government may place a tax lien on your property. A tax lien gives the government the right to claim your property to satisfy the tax debt. Lenders are generally reluctant to approve a mortgage on a property with a tax lien, as it presents a higher risk for them. Resolving any tax liens or entering into a payment arrangement with the government is crucial before pursuing a mortgage.
  • Options for Resolving Tax Debt: To increase your chances of buying a house, it’s essential to address your tax debt. You can consider the following options:
    • Payment Plan: Setting up a payment plan with the government allows you to repay your tax debt over time. Demonstrating a consistent payment history can show lenders that you’re taking responsibility for your tax obligations.
    • Offer in Compromise: In certain situations, the government may accept an offer in compromise, which allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount owed. This option can provide relief and help improve your financial situation.
    • Paying off the Debt: If financially feasible, paying off your tax debt in full can eliminate any concerns related to tax liabilities and increase your chances of mortgage approval.
  • Seek Professional Advice: Consulting with a tax professional or a financial advisor can provide valuable guidance tailored to your specific circumstances. They can help you understand your options, develop a strategy to resolve your tax debt, and navigate the home buying process.

Overall, owing taxes can impact your ability to buy a house, but it doesn’t necessarily make homeownership impossible. It’s crucial to manage your tax debt responsibly, resolve any outstanding tax liens, and demonstrate a commitment to improving your financial situation. By addressing your tax obligations and seeking professional advice, you can navigate the home buying process more effectively and potentially achieve your goal of homeownership.

How Taxes Affect The Mortgage Process

How Taxes Are Considered In The Mortgage Application Process

When applying for a mortgage, taxes play a significant role in the evaluation process. Lenders carefully consider your tax situation to assess your financial stability and ability to repay the loan. Understanding how taxes are considered in the mortgage application process can help you prepare and increase your chances of securing a mortgage. Here are key factors lenders typically consider:

  1. Income Verification: Lenders require proof of income to determine your ability to make mortgage payments. This includes assessing your gross income, which is your income before taxes and other deductions. Lenders typically request recent tax returns, W-2 forms, and sometimes pay stubs to verify your income. Self-employed individuals may need to provide additional documentation, such as profit and loss statements.
  2. Debt-to-Income Ratio: Lenders evaluate your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) to assess your ability to manage additional debt from a mortgage. The DTI compares your monthly debt payments to your gross monthly income. This includes factors like credit card payments, car loans, student loans, and any other outstanding debts. Lenders have different DTI requirements, but generally, a lower DTI is more favorable for mortgage approval.
  3. Tax Returns: Lenders typically review your tax returns from the past two to three years. They assess your income consistency and stability over time. Any significant changes or fluctuations in income may raise questions for lenders. It’s important to accurately report your income and disclose all relevant financial information in your tax returns.
  4. Tax Liens and Judgments: Lenders also check for any outstanding tax liens or judgments against you. A tax lien is a claim made by the government on your property due to unpaid taxes. Having a tax lien can complicate the mortgage process, as it creates a higher risk for lenders. It’s crucial to resolve any tax liens or judgments before applying for a mortgage.
  5. Property Taxes: Lenders consider property taxes as part of your overall housing expenses. They assess whether you can afford both the mortgage payment and the property taxes associated with the property you intend to purchase. Your property’s location and its assessed value determine the property tax amount. It’s important to budget for property taxes when determining your overall affordability.
  6. Tax Deductions: Lenders typically consider your taxable income, which takes into account any deductions you claim on your tax returns. Deductions like mortgage interest, property taxes, and certain business expenses can lower your taxable income. While these deductions can reduce your tax liability, they may also affect the income used to calculate your mortgage eligibility.
  7. Tax Transcripts: In addition to reviewing your tax returns, lenders may request tax transcripts directly from the IRS. This allows them to verify that the tax documents provided by the borrower are consistent with what was filed with the IRS. It helps prevent fraudulent or inaccurate income claims.

Understanding how taxes are considered in the mortgage application process is crucial for a successful home purchase. It’s essential to accurately report your income, manage any outstanding tax liabilities, and provide all necessary documentation to lenders. Consulting with a tax professional or a mortgage advisor can provide valuable insights and help you navigate the complexities of the mortgage application process with confidence.

How Unpaid Taxes Can Impact Credit Scores And Debt-To-Income Ratios

Unpaid taxes can have a significant impact on both credit scores and debt-to-income ratios, potentially affecting your financial standing and ability to secure loans. Here’s how unpaid taxes can influence these important factors:

  1. Credit Scores: Unpaid taxes can lead to negative consequences for your credit score. If you owe federal or state taxes, the government can file a tax lien against you. A tax lien is a claim on your assets, including your property, as collateral for the unpaid tax debt. The presence of a tax lien on your credit report can lower your credit score, making it more challenging to obtain credit or loans in the future.
  2. Debt-to-Income Ratios: Debt-to-income (DTI) ratios are used by lenders to assess your ability to manage additional debt. Unpaid taxes can increase your overall debt burden, affecting your DTI ratio. Your DTI ratio compares your monthly debt obligations, including taxes owed, to your gross monthly income. A high DTI ratio indicates a significant portion of your income is already allocated to debt repayment, making it more difficult to qualify for new loans or credit.
  3. Loan Eligibility: Lenders consider credit scores and DTI ratios when evaluating loan applications. A lower credit score resulting from unpaid taxes may lead to higher interest rates or outright loan denials. Lenders view borrowers with outstanding tax debt as higher credit risks. Similarly, a high DTI ratio may make lenders hesitant to approve new loans, as it indicates a greater likelihood of financial strain and difficulty in making timely payments.
  4. Mortgage Approval: Unpaid taxes can particularly impact mortgage applications. Mortgage lenders closely scrutinize credit scores and DTI ratios to determine loan eligibility. A tax lien resulting from unpaid taxes creates a significant obstacle in obtaining a mortgage. Lenders typically require tax liens to be paid or adequately addressed before approving a mortgage loan. Having unpaid taxes may delay or even prevent the approval of your mortgage application.
  5. Collection Efforts: Failure to pay taxes can lead to enforced collection efforts by the government. This can include wage garnishment, bank levies, or asset seizure. These collection actions can further impact your financial stability and creditworthiness, exacerbating the negative effects on your credit score and DTI ratio.

It’s important to note that unpaid taxes and their consequences are not permanent. Taking steps to address your tax debt and fulfill your obligations can help improve your credit score and debt-to-income ratio over time. Some strategies to consider include setting up a payment plan with the tax authority, negotiating a settlement, or exploring other debt resolution options. Promptly addressing unpaid taxes demonstrates financial responsibility and can positively impact your creditworthiness in the long run.

If you find yourself struggling with unpaid taxes, seeking assistance from a tax professional or financial advisor is highly recommended. They can provide guidance on managing your tax debt, developing a repayment plan, and minimizing the impact on your credit score and financial well-being.

How To Address Taxes When Applying For A Mortgage

When applying for a mortgage, it’s crucial to address your tax situation proactively to increase your chances of a successful application. Taking the following steps can help you navigate the mortgage process while effectively managing your taxes:

  1. Organize Your Tax Documents: Start by gathering all the necessary tax documents. This typically includes your most recent tax returns (typically the past two to three years), W-2 forms, 1099 forms, and any other supporting documentation. Having these documents readily available will help streamline the mortgage application process.
  2. Accurately Report Your Income: It’s essential to accurately report your income on your tax returns. Lenders will review your income consistency and stability over time. Ensure that all sources of income, including employment income, self-employment income, and investment income, are properly reported. Inflating or underreporting your income can raise red flags and potentially lead to loan denials.
  3. Resolve Any Outstanding Tax Liabilities: If you have outstanding tax debts or tax liens, it’s crucial to address them before applying for a mortgage. Outstanding tax liabilities can hinder your mortgage approval process or result in higher interest rates. Work with a tax professional or the tax authority to develop a plan to resolve your tax debts. This may involve setting up a payment plan, negotiating a settlement, or pursuing other tax relief options.
  4. Maintain a Stable Employment History: Lenders consider your employment history and stability when assessing your mortgage application. Avoid changing jobs or careers shortly before or during the mortgage application process, as it can raise concerns about your ability to repay the loan. A stable employment history demonstrates financial stability and consistency.
  5. Keep Up with Tax Filing Deadlines: Make sure to file your tax returns on time. Late or unfiled tax returns can negatively impact your mortgage application. Lenders may require copies of your filed tax returns as part of the application process. Filing your taxes in a timely manner helps establish your financial responsibility and demonstrates your ability to meet financial obligations.
  6. Consult with a Tax Professional or Mortgage Advisor: Seeking guidance from a tax professional or mortgage advisor can provide valuable insights tailored to your specific situation. They can help you understand how your tax situation may impact your mortgage application and offer strategies to address any challenges. A tax professional can also provide guidance on maximizing tax benefits, such as deductions or credits related to homeownership.
  7. Be Transparent and Disclose All Relevant Information: It’s crucial to be transparent and disclose all relevant financial information to your lender. This includes any outstanding tax debts, tax liens, or other financial obligations. Failure to disclose this information can have serious consequences, including loan denial or potential legal issues.

By addressing your taxes proactively and following these steps, you can navigate the mortgage application process more smoothly. It’s important to stay organized, maintain accurate tax records, and seek professional advice when needed. A well-prepared tax situation enhances your overall financial profile and increases your chances of securing a mortgage loan.

Options For Resolving Tax Debt

Different Options For Resolving Tax Debt

When faced with tax debt, it’s important to explore various options for resolving it. The specific approach you choose will depend on your financial situation, the amount owed, and your ability to repay. Here are several different options to consider when resolving tax debt:

  1. Payment Plan (InstalmentĀ Agreement): If you’re unable to pay your tax debt in full, the IRS or tax authority may allow you to set up a payment plan. This option allows you to make monthly installment payments over an extended period until the debt is fully paid. The payment plan terms will vary based on your circumstances and can be negotiated with the tax authority.
  2. Offer in Compromise: An Offer in Compromise (OIC) is an agreement between the taxpayer and the tax authority that allows the taxpayer to settle the tax debt for less than the full amount owed. To qualify for an OIC, you must demonstrate that paying the full tax debt would create financial hardship or be unlikely. The tax authority will evaluate your financial situation to determine if an OIC is a viable option.
  3. Currently Not Collectible (CNC) Status: If you’re experiencing severe financial hardship and are unable to pay your tax debt, you may be eligible for Currently Not Collectible (CNC) status. This status temporarily suspends collection efforts by the tax authority until your financial situation improves. Although the tax debt remains, the tax authority will refrain from actively pursuing collection actions.
  4. Penalty Abatement: In certain cases, the tax authority may consider reducing or eliminating penalties associated with your tax debt. Penalties can accrue due to late filing, late payment, or underpayment of taxes. Requesting penalty abatement involves providing a reasonable cause or demonstrating that you acted in good faith. If successful, the tax authority may reduce or waive the penalties, reducing the overall tax debt.
  5. Bankruptcy: In extreme cases where the tax debt is substantial and you’re facing significant financial hardship, filing for bankruptcy may be an option. Bankruptcy can help discharge certain types of tax debt, but it’s important to consult with a bankruptcy attorney to understand the specific rules and implications.
  6. Seek Professional Assistance: Dealing with tax debt can be complex, and seeking professional assistance from a tax attorney, enrolled agent, or certified public accountant (CPA) is highly recommended. These professionals have expertise in tax matters and can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation. They can help you understand your options, navigate negotiations with the tax authority, and ensure compliance with applicable laws.

It’s important to take action promptly when facing tax debt to prevent further penalties and interest from accumulating. Assess your financial situation, evaluate the available options, and consider seeking professional advice to determine the most suitable approach for resolving your tax debt. Each option has its own requirements and implications, so carefully weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

Pros And Cons Of Each Option For Resolving Tax Debt

  1. Payment Plan (Installment Agreement):


  • Allows you to pay off your tax debt over time in manageable monthly installments.
  • Provides flexibility in choosing the repayment period based on your financial situation.
  • Helps you avoid immediate collection actions or penalties associated with non-payment.
  • May prevent the need to borrow money or use high-interest credit options to pay off the debt.


  • Interest and penalties may continue to accrue during the installment period, increasing the overall amount owed.
  • You may need to provide financial information and go through a formal application process.
  • Failure to make timely payments can result in default and potential collection actions.
  • The length of the repayment plan may extend for several years, which may impact your financial flexibility.
  1. Offer in Compromise:


  • Allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount owed, potentially providing significant savings.
  • Provides an opportunity to negotiate with the tax authority and seek a mutually beneficial agreement.
  • Offers a fresh start by eliminating or reducing your tax debt burden.
  • May provide relief if paying the full amount would cause severe financial hardship.


  • The application process can be complex and time-consuming, requiring detailed financial disclosures.
  • Approval rates for Offer in Compromise are relatively low, and the tax authority thoroughly evaluates your financial situation.
  • You must demonstrate that the proposed settlement amount is the most the tax authority can reasonably expect to collect.
  • If your Offer in Compromise is rejected, you may need to consider alternative options or appeal the decision.
  1. Currently Not Collectible (CNC) Status:


  • Temporarily suspends collection actions by the tax authority, giving you a break from immediate payment obligations.
  • Provides relief if you’re facing significant financial hardship and unable to meet your basic living expenses.
  • Gives you time to improve your financial situation and explore other debt resolution options.
  • Can provide temporary financial stability and relieve the stress of ongoing collection efforts.


  • The tax authority may periodically review your financial situation to determine if your status should change.
  • Although collection actions are suspended, the tax debt remains and will continue to accrue interest and penalties.
  • The tax authority may still offset future tax refunds or apply any future payments towards the tax debt.
  • The CNC status is typically a temporary solution, and the tax authority may resume collection efforts once your financial situation improves.
  1. Penalty Abatement:


  • Offers potential relief from penalties associated with late filing, late payment, or underpayment of taxes.
  • Reduces the overall tax debt owed, potentially making it more manageable to repay.
  • Can be a viable option if you have reasonable cause or can demonstrate that you acted in good faith.
  • May help improve your financial standing by removing or reducing the burden of penalties.


  • Penalty abatement does not eliminate the underlying tax debt; it only addresses the associated penalties.
  • You must provide a valid reason or reasonable cause to support your penalty abatement request.
  • The process may involve providing supporting documentation and going through an application or appeals process.
  • Approval for penalty abatement is not guaranteed, and the tax authority has discretion in granting or denying the request.
  1. Bankruptcy:


  • Can provide a fresh start by eliminating or reducing certain types of tax debt.
  • May help alleviate the burden of overwhelming debt and provide a path to financial recovery.
  • Offers an automatic stay, which temporarily stops collection actions and provides relief from creditor harassment.
  • Provides an opportunity to restructure your finances and develop a plan to manage other debts.


  • Bankruptcy should be considered as a last resort, as it has long-lasting consequences on your credit and financial reputation.
  • Not all tax debts are dischargeable in bankruptcy, and specific criteria must be met.
  • The process can be complex and require legal assistance to navigate successfully.
  • Bankruptcy can have significant implications for your future ability to obtain credit or loans.
  1. Seek Professional Assistance:


  • Provides expert guidance and advice tailored to your specific tax situation.
  • Helps you understand the pros and cons of each option and select the most appropriate course of action.
  • Enhances your chances of a successful resolution by navigating complex tax laws and procedures.
  • Offers peace of mind, knowing that your tax matters are being handled by a qualified professional.


  • Professional assistance may involve additional costs, such as fees for tax attorneys, enrolled agents, or certified public accountants.
  • You need to ensure that the professional you hire is reputable, experienced, and knowledgeable in tax debt resolution.
  • Despite professional guidance, the final outcome still depends on your individual circumstances and the discretion of the tax authority.
  • Success is not guaranteed, and some tax debt resolution options may not be suitable for every situation.

When considering options for resolving tax debt, carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each approach. Factors such as the amount owed, your financial situation, and the potential long-term implications should be taken into account. It’s advisable to seek professional advice to ensure you make an informed decision that aligns with your financial goals and best interests.

How Resolving Tax Debt Can Improve Chances Of Getting Approved For A Mortgage

Resolving tax debt can improve an individual’s chances of getting approved for a mortgage by improving their credit score and debt-to-income ratio. By making regular payments towards the tax debt, an individual can demonstrate to lenders that they are capable of managing their finances and paying their debts.

Additionally, resolving tax debt can also remove any liens or wage garnishments that may be affecting an individual’s credit score and financial situation.

Overall, there are several options available for resolving tax debt, each with its own set of pros and cons. Resolving tax debt can improve an individual’s chances of getting approved for a mortgage by improving their credit score and debt-to-income ratio. It’s important to evaluate each option and consult with a tax professional to determine the best course of action.


In conclusion, while owing taxes can make it more difficult to buy a house, it is not necessarily impossible. It’s important to understand how taxes are considered in the mortgage application process, how unpaid taxes can impact credit scores and debt-to-income ratios, and what options are available to resolve tax debt.

By addressing any tax issues and knowing your options, you can improve your chances of getting approved for a mortgage. It’s essential to take steps to resolve any unpaid taxes before applying for a mortgage, such as setting up payment plans or settlements with the IRS and obtaining proof of resolution, and to consult with a tax professional to understand the best course of action.

It’s also important to remember that owing taxes does not necessarily prevent someone from buying a house, but it is important to address any tax debt and understand how it may affect the mortgage process.