Late filer's got a fixable IRS problem

DEAR HARRY: I had a number of serious personal problems in the spring of 2012. As a result, I did not file the 1040 for 2011 until the fall. IRS hit me for a late-filing penalty and a penalty for not filing an estimated tax form and paying the estimate. I tried to get them to abate the penalty, but was told that my reasons should not have prevented the filing. My tax preparer said that there was no way out and that I should just pay and forget about it. The amount totals $870. That may look small to some people, but it's pretty big to me. Is there a way out? Please say yes, Harry.

What Harry says: To paraphrase Gracie Allen: Yes, Harry. IRS has a little-known program for situations such as yours called First Time Abatement (FTA). It's been around for more than 10 years, and you fit right in. A taxpayer has to have at least a clean three-year filing, payment and penalty history to qualify. He must also be fully paid or arranged to pay all liabilities. There are even provisions to relax these requirements. You may request the appropriate FTA form by calling 866-860-4259.

Be sure to give all your reasons for making the request. In case your initial request is turned down, ask to speak with a supervisor who has better knowledge of the rules. If that fails, the Taxpayer Advocate can get your abatement.

Email Harry Gross at, or

write to him at Daily News, 801 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19107.

Harry urges all his readers to give blood. Contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-Red Cross.