How to Pay the IRS

You can trust the internet, or you can stop by in person

Woman paying bills at laptop

Jamie Grill Photography / Getty Images

The IRS typically announces the date when it will begin accepting tax returns during the first week of January of each year. You can pay the IRS in several ways when the time comes—in person, at various payment centers online, or by mailing a check or money order the good, old-fashioned way.

Pay Online Using DirectPay

You can set up an electronic funds transfer from your checking or savings account through the DirectPay service on the IRS website if you have the money on hand to pay what you owe. You can also access DirectPay on the IRS2Go mobile app. It's the official IRS app, available through the Amazon App Store, the Apple App Store, or Google Play.

The IRS doesn't charge a processing fee for this option. You can schedule payments up to 30 days in advance, and you can also cancel or change them up to two business days before you've scheduled them.

The only downside is that you must re-enter your personal, identifying information each time you use DirectPay, which can be a bit of a nuisance. The system doesn't save it for you, and you can't set up an account there, but it gets the job done relatively quickly and efficiently. 

DirectPay accommodates numerous types of payments related to Form 1040, such as balance-due payments, estimated payments, and extension payments. It accepts some other less-common payment types as well. 

You can receive instant email confirmation of your payments for your records if you request it. 

Pay Online From Your Bank Account Using

You can schedule payments up to 365 days in advance for any tax due to the IRS after registering with the Electronic Tax Federal Payment System (EFTPS). As with DirectPay, you can cancel or change payments up to two business days before the transmittal date. EFTPS is a good choice if you want to schedule all of your estimated tax payments at the same time, if your payments are particularly large, or if they're related to your business.

The Treasury Department operates EFTPS, and it doesn't charge any processing fees. It can handle any type of federal tax payment, including 1040 balance due payments, extension payments, corporate taxes, and even payroll taxes.

You must enroll with EFTPS, but the site saves your account information, so you don't have to keep re-entering it each time you want to make a payment. You'll receive an email with a confirmation number for each transaction. EFTPS saves your payment history for up to 16 months. 

Pay Online by Debit or Credit Card

You also can pay the IRS by credit or debit card, but you must use one of the approved payment processors. Three processors are available, and you can access any of them on the IRS website or through the IRS2Go mobile app:

They all charge a processing fee, which can vary, but this fee might be tax-deductible, depending on your tax situation. It's usually a flat fee for a debit card transaction or a small percentage of your payment if you're using a credit card. Your credit card company might charge you interest as well.  

You can't cancel payments using this option.

Mail a Check or Money Order

You can always make a check payable to the United States Treasury if you prefer sidestepping the internet and want to make a conventional payment. Be sure to write your Social Security number, the tax form number, and the tax year in the memo field of your paper check. 

You can also send money orders this way. 

Send the check along with Form 1040-V, which is a payment voucher, but don't staple or paperclip the check to the voucher. Mail it to the appropriate address shown on page 2 of the Form 1040-V, or you can find the correct address for the nature of your payment and your state of residence on the IRS website

Addresses differ, depending on your state of residence, and they can change periodically, so be sure to access them from the 2020 tax year form or directly on the website.

Pay in Person

If you really want to go old school—and many people do because they're concerned about hacking and fraud scams—you can pay up at your local IRS office. Make an appointment online before going to the office, so you won't have to wait an inordinate amount of time, or worse, come back another day. These offices can get busy, and many still aren't open due to coronavirus concerns.

Taxpayer Assistance Centers closed in March 2020 and remain closed until further notice, due to the coronavirus pandemic. This might not be an option in early 2021.

One similar option is to visit an IRS "retail partner," one of more than 7,000 participating retail stores nationwide that will transmit your payment to the IRS for you. Check out PayNearMe or VanillaDirect for a map of participating stores, and follow the directions to make a payment in person. Both options let you pay by cash, check, or money order. But don't attempt this option if your payment is due tomorrow, because it can take stores five to seven business days to process payments.

Set up an Electronic Funds Withdrawal

You can usually set up a direct debit from your checking account if you use tax preparation software to e-file your return, either on your own or through a tax professional. It's generally just a simple matter of entering your bank account information into the program, but this option isn't available to taxpayers who don't e-file.

Ask Your Bank About a Wire Transfer

Banks can set up same-day wire transfers payable to the IRS, although they don't generally advertise it. Fees for this service can vary from negligible to significant, depending on the size of the payment.

Your request might be politely declined if you want to wire $5. 

Some taxpayers might find that they can't make the tax filing date. You can typically take an extension by filing Form 4868 with the IRS (instead of a tax return) by the tax filing deadline, giving yourself until October 15.

The IRS extended the tax filing date from April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021.

Technically, any payments you owe are still due by the tax due date. You should submit your tax payment along with your extension request. You'll receive a refund if you remit too much, or you'll owe the IRS more if you later complete your return, only to realize that you've underpaid for the year.

You can ask the IRS to work with you and set up a payment plan if you have difficulty paying the full amount of tax you owe.