Posted by William Charles on January 20, 2017
Credit Cards

Published on January 20th, 2017 | by William Charles

86

A Complete Guide To Paying Your Federal Taxes With A Credit Card, Updated For 2017

Update: We’ve update this post to make it relevant for 2017, hope you enjoy!

It’s that time of the year again, time to pay taxes! For a lot of people, this is their biggest expense of the year and wouldn’t it be great if you could pay your taxes with a credit card? Well as the IRS website clearly states, you can.

Disclaimer: We’re not accountants, this does not constitute tax advice. Please consult a tax professional.

The Basics

The Tax Payer Relief Act of 1997 allowed the IRS to accept credit & debit card payments (under section 6311(a)) and payments were able to made from January 1st, 1999 onwards due to this temporary act. The IRS has authorized three third party providers to process tax federal taxes on their behalf: Pay1040, PayUSAtax & Official Payments. The reason why the IRS doesn’t process credit cards directly is they are forbidden from charging fees directly for these services due to other federal laws. None of the money these providers collects goes to the IRS and some of these providers can also be used to pay State taxes (we’ll cover this in another separate post).

In this guide we’re going to assume you have the cash to pay your credit card in full, if you don’t have the ability to do this then paying with a credit card is a terrible idea due to the high interest rates credit cards charge. If you can’t pay in full then you’ll most likely be better off with a payment plan/installment agreement with the IRS, more information on this can be found here.

Obviously all these third party providers charge fees (ranging from 1.87% to 2%), those fees are what we look at first.

Another option is to use the Plastiq bill payment service. Plastiq allows paying any bill, including tax payments, with a credit or debit card.

Fees

Obviously all these third party providers charge fees (ranging from 1.87% to 2%), those fees are what we look at first. We’ve also included the fees for debit card payments and digital wallet payments (who knows when another Discover pay promotion will come around). These fees are valid through December 31st, 2017. According to Way Back Machine, the fees have been very similar for awhile now (actually mostly getting slightly cheaper since 2012). Official Payments reduced their credit card fee from 2.25% to 2% and increased the flat fee for debit cards to $3.95 for payments over $1,000 2017, PayUSAtax also reduced theirs to 1.98% from 1.99%. PayUSATax kept their fees flat.

Debit Cards Credit Cards Digital Wallet
Pay1040.com $2.59 flat fee 1.87% (minimum $2.59) See debit/credit card fees
PayUSAtax.com $2.65 flat fee 1.98% (minimum fee $2.69) See debit/credit card fees
OfficialPayments.com/Fed $2.25 flat fee ($3.95 for payments over $1,000) 2% (minimum $2.50) See debit/credit card fees

There are higher fees if you use any tax preparation software, those can be viewed here.

As for Plastiq, the standard fee is 2.5% for Visa, Mastercard, Discover or Amex. Currently, there’s an offer on Amex and possibly Mastercard to pay just 2%.

Making It Worth It

High Cash Back/Rewards Cards

As you can see, Pay1040 is the cheapest option at 1.87%. Even if you used a credit card that earned 2% (e.g Fidelity Visa or Citi Doublecash) you’d only be making 0.13% profit. Even if you had to pay $10,000 in taxes, you’d be earning $200 in rewards but having to pay $187 in fees for a profit of $13. Not exactly worth it. Now if we could reduce our fees, then we might be onto something.

Claiming The Fees On Tax

On the IRS page you’ll notice the following (emphasis mine):

The fees vary by service provider and may be tax deductible

Personal Taxes

Nothing like something vague and ambiguous to give to confidence that you can claim these fees as a deduction. In 2009, the IRS introduced a new law that allows some people to deduct these expenses when you file electronically. You can view their statement on this on the official IRS website. Here is what you need to be aware of:

  • Convenience fees associated with payment of federal tax can be included as a miscellaneous itemized deduction
  • Only those miscellaneous expenses that exceed 2% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income can be deducted

You can view what the IRS considers a miscellaneous expense here. But for most people I doubt they will exceed 2% of their adjusted gross income. So there goes that idea.

Business Taxes

Things are a little clearer for business taxes, they state:

  • For business tax types, the fee is a deductible business expense.

Meeting Minimum Spend Requirements

As easy manufactured spending methods dry up, more and more people are happy to pay a fee to meet minimum spend requirements. That’s because they usually have large sign up bonuses relative to the minimum spend requirements.

Splitting Payments

If you owe $10,000 in taxes, then chances are you don’t want to be paying $187 in fees just to meet one minimum spend requirement (especially since most of them only require ~$3,000 or less in spending). Thankfully the IRS allow you to split your payments up, how many times you can do this depends on what sort of tax you’re paying. They provide a full table here.

If you use Plastiq, there is no limit to the amount of payments you can make. You’ll pay with a card, but each payment will be sent to the IRS via mailed check. The limits given by the IRS are only for card payments, not check payments.

Our Verdict

I think paying your taxes with a credit card is generally not worth the effort involved, unless you want to meet a minimum spend requirement and are happy to pay the fees involved. Even using a 2% card doesn’t net much profit unless you have a massive tax bill. Liquidating prepaid gift cards could still be worthwhile for some.

Feel free to ask other questions below and I’ll update the F.A.Q as we go along. Also remember that we’re not tax professionals, please consult with one of them relating to anything tax related.

F.A.Q’s

Do Any Credit Cards Code Any Of These Sites In A Bonus Category?

Your payment will be broken down into two different payments:

  • Your actual tax payment will show as “United States Treasury Tax Payment”
  • The convenience fee charged will show as ” Tax Payment Convenience Fee”

As far as I know no credit cards will earn a category bonus on this purchase. It’s possible that they do.

Can I Use Visa/Mastercard/American Express Gift Cards To Make A Payment?

Some people have had success in doing this in the past, apparently Official Payments allows you to use more than two debit cards when paying over the phone. Just keep in mind you’ll be paying a $2.25 fee per card. I have no idea if this still works or not.

The best route for multiple gift cards is to use Plastiq who allows gift cards to be used at their standard 2-2.5% fee. If you have ten $500 gift cards, make ten separate payments of ~$490 each and a separate check will be sent to the IRS for each one.

Will I Be Charged A Cash Advance Fee?

As far as I’m aware, no major credit card issuers charge a cash advance fee. This is confirmed by the websites of each of the payment processors:

 



86 Responses to A Complete Guide To Paying Your Federal Taxes With A Credit Card, Updated For 2017

  1. Feo says:

    I just used payusatax to drain a VCG. Treated as debit, no issues, online. With grocery category bonuses, I basically came out even, but good way to drain VCGs post bluebird.

  2. BN says:

    what about using the BBVA NBA card in a couple weeks. Would that be worth it?

    • Robin says:

      That’s what I’m thinking…

    • Kent C says:

      Not a bad idea. BBVA Compass only allows $5,000 max spending per day regardless of your CL though. I had read about that, then called. They confirmed it was true but said they would be willing to do a 3 way chat for a larger purchase. Seems like a hassle. Hopefully your tax is <5K. No guarantee they will honor the 5x though if they want to play hardball on the merchant.

      • Robin says:

        Good to know.

      • Gerald says:

        This year, the 5% BBVA bonus only applies to a max of $5000 per event, so you have one $5000 shot in February (the all-star weekend) and one in June (two weeks of the finals). Last year I used Pay1040 to file for an extension in February (since I didn’t have time to do my taxes) and then used it again in June to pay estimated taxes. If you want to max this out and you don’t owe taxes, you can always file for an extension, pay a lot more than you owe, and then get it back as a refund. Just because you filed for an extension doesn’t mean you can’t file before your taxes are due.

  3. Phil says:

    Will I get the 1% cash back if paying with paypal business debit card?

    • steve says:

      Depends on if it codes as Signature (yes) or Pinless debit (no).
      Either way you’re losing 0.87%+

    • joe says:

      was thinking the same about the paypal debit card.

      • DT says:

        I’ve been using PP debit for 2-3 years now.
        Only 2 (Official Payments and PayUSATax will allow PP as a debit (remember max of $3000/day which makes it 12k per quarter plus final tax bill if any due).

        Unfortunately, this quarter I did not get any 1% back while I was getting it from Official Payments on previous occasions.

        • Kevin says:

          IIRC PP made a change last year that only transactions processed as credit will earn the 1%. Coincidentally, this happened right as RadPad stopped allowing rent payments… you can guess the last time I used my PP debit card.

  4. Jan B. says:

    Because I max out a schedule A, the IRS didn’t believe me when I submitted 2014 1040. Recently, they asked for all my receipts and statements (mortgage interest, RE taxes). When I could not respond in a timely fashion (travel, records filed away, was also moving state to state), they sent me a balance due letter.

    I sent them a check QUICKLY rather than muse over which CC to use. Cleared quickly. Now pursuing TAX advocacy route to get the $2K back.

    But, with more time to think about 2015, I would consider the CC payment. Thanks for the article.

  5. Robert says:

    I tried to pay with the PayPal debit a couple years ago, but it doesn’t go through as debit. You would have to choose credit, which of course wipes out the potential profit.

  6. savemesf says:

    Frequent Miler recently said you can make 2 payments through EACH of the 3 payment processors. I.e., you can make 6 payments each time (each quarterly estimated payment and when filing the return). Can anybody confirm this is correct? Seems like a fairly painless way to unload a few VGCs.

    • Harold says:

      I made two payments through pay1040 for estimated tax and then one with payUSAtax. All three were reported the same way on the IRS EFTPS website. So I can confirm that more than two payments work.

    • Jeff H says:

      I have had a couple of 2016 quarters that I did 2x $500 (including fee) + Nebraska estimated $500 via Official Payments plus a maximum payment $500 (including fee) on pay1040. All in VGCs bought with 3% to 5% cashback cards = small discount

  7. Mark says:

    I’m getting 3% back this year with discover it miles

    • Aks says:

      I am incline to use Discover but worried if later they change the terms to exclude tax payments the way they have excluded Gas purchase at superstore at the end of promotion date.

      • Peter says:

        Please elaborate or provide additional sources for your statement of ” the way they have excluded Gas purchase at superstore at the end of promotion date”.

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  9. Jonathan says:

    VGC is good but too much trouble.

    I used to pay paypal debit as debit a couple of years ago. I paid $2997.41 + $2.59 fee = $3000.00 ( the maximum value paypal allowed).

    After I was afraid of paypal shutdown. I used AMEX gift card to pay instead since I could get 4% or more back from AMEX gift card.

    Nowaday I will either use paypal again for credit ( I still have 2-4 % profit since I purchased with obc) or I will use 2.625% BOA travel to pay for it.

  10. Chris says:

    Man I wish I knew about this last week. My City linked to Official Payments an didnt mention the others… To ME, it was worth $45 to meet the Chase Ink Min Spend without much hassle. I would set it up next time to use Pay1040.com with a 2% card…. Even buying VGCs and doing it that way would be more expensive / not worth the hassle IMO.

  11. David says:

    What about using multiple (like many many) $300 visa gift cards to pay a tax bill well over $10,000?

    • Look at the limits for each processor, won’t work as you can only make like 2-3 payments.

      • Ian says:

        Do they allow split tender payments over the phone for one debit card fee? (It’s making 1 payment of $3000 using 10 $300 gcs?)

        • Jeff H says:

          Reportedly Official Payments will do multiple cards, but I was not able to get to the live operator.

          Source one of the bloggers that reviewed this topic – not finding now.

          • Ian says:

            frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/2016/03/17/ claims a reader said OP accepts multiple gift cards via phone, but charges $2.50 fee for each gift card.

  12. Calvin says:

    Anybody pay taxes with the BBVA card?

    If so, which third party provider did you use, what day did you pay your taxes, what day is listed as the “transaction date” on the BBVA card, and did you get 5% cashback?

  13. Jeff says:

    I am considering this for the current tax cycle due to an unexpectedly high tax due(5000+). My current thinking is Citi card with only 1% rebate but then turn around and BT using a competitor card for 18 months when billed. Citi’s 18 month BT 5% fee is nuts, My CL is okay to due one transaction especially when I notify Citi to expect a larger than normal charge.
    IMO for me it will be worth it.

  14. Dave says:

    It seems OfficialPayments charges $3.95 (not $3.50 as you state) for debit card payments over $1000

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  16. Chucks says:

    “having to pay $187 in fees for a profit of $13. Not exactly worth it.”

    I mean, it’s not great, but I’d say spending what, maybe 3 extra minutes to pay with a credit card instead of a check or direct deposit is probably worth $13. And you get the float. Even better if you have a bonused 2.625% BOA travel rewards card -0.735% net is $74.87 profit on a $10187 charge. You’ve got to pay taxes anyway and it’s not like paying with a CC is that much more burdensome, might as well, right?

  17. Jason says:

    I am W2, pre-tax so this wouldn’t apply on me right?

    • Gerald says:

      See my comment above regarding filing for an extension.

      • JASON says:

        I don’t need to file an extension. Tax is already deducted from my paycheck and I get some refund each year.

        • Gerald says:

          Even if you don’t need to file for an extension, it could be profitable to do so if you have the BBVA NBA card. You get the 5% minus Pay1040’s 1.87%. On a payment of $4908, you’ll end up maxing out the $5000 BBVA limit (since the fee will be $91.78). You’ll get $250 from BBVA, so you’ll make over $158. You could file your taxes the next day and get the additional $4908 back with your refund.

          This assumes you don’t have any normal spend to hit the BBVA max. It also assumes you can float the $5000 until you get the refund.

  18. Master Allan says:

    Slightly off topic but I paid my property taxes by credit card last night. Normally I would be upset with a $40 convenience fee however I’m doing this to earn a SW companion pass by my new SW credit card new account bonus. I must be one of the few actually excited to pay taxes. If owed to the IRS I would do the same. Though I make estimated tax payments with a credit card (+ fees) for the same reason above. Believe me I come out far ahead.

    • Jeff H says:

      I also paid first half property taxes this year by credit card – thanks to Elan targeted cash back increase for about the same purchase amount. Got another 50 days before actually paying fit my cashflow better. With the extra cash back, the card use fee is covered – no real cost to me for doing so.

      Second half taxes were covered a few weeks later by PO MOs bought with OD/OM discounted MCGCs which were purchased at 5 points per $$ spent.

  19. Matt says:

    Can one pre-[over] pay money to the IRS prior to filing?

    • Master Allan says:

      Yes you can. Sometimes I had thoughts of sending the IRS and extra $1000 in January (for the previous tax year) for bonuses. I’ll pay the fee charged by the processor but get the money back when I file the tax a month or two later. Don’t forget to split that refund to your new bank account with direct deposit bonus requirements for some courtesy spending money.

    • Gerald says:

      Easiest way is to file for an extension even if you don’t need the extra time.

      • Mike says:

        Why is this easier? What does filing an extension do?

        • Gerald says:

          When you file for an extension, you get to postpone filing your taxes for up to six months. But you don’t get to postpone paying your taxes. If you owe money when you file after the normal due date (April 18 this year), you’ll get charged interest and possibly penalties. So when you file for an extension, they let you estimate how much you’ll owe and pay it then.

          Pay1040 won’t let you pay estimated tax for 2016 after a certain date (last payment was due 1/17). BBVA all-star game bonus is in February. Pay1040 will let you pay when you file for an extension then. Just because you filed for an extension doesn’t mean you have to wait until after April 18 to file. You could file your taxes the next day.

          • Steven says:

            If I haven’t pre paid yet and only want to over pay on one card do I need to file an extension?

  20. renzhen says:

    if I file using Turbotax, but how I pay the tax using pay1040? It seems that I have to use the integrated payment from Turbotax, which charges more fee than pay1040? Thanks.

  21. gybl says:

    Thanks for the updated guide! Thinking of paying this year’s taxes with newly acquired Amex Biz Platinum to meet minimum spend.

  22. Marc says:

    Any similar service for state taxes?

  23. Steven says:

    Say I probably don’t owe any taxes and expect a refund, can I overpay anyways to meet spending requirements then get a larger refund check, assuming it makes sense for me to still pay the CC payment fee?

    • DT says:

      I’ve done it in January last year and got my refund upon filing 2015 federal tax 6 weeks later.

      • Jennifer says:

        Which website did you use to make the payment? Did you inform your accountant that you already prepaid the 2015 tax? (what did you put in your 2015 income tax return to make sure you receive the refund?)

  24. Curmudgeon says:

    Quoted:
    “I think paying your taxes with a credit card is generally not worth the effort involved, unless you want to meet a minimum spend requirement and are happy to pay the fees involved.”

    I disagree with your verdict. I think it is absolutely worth the effort with two qualifications:
    1. You have to pay the IRS anyway
    2. As long as you use a 2% or better rewards card, you come out ahead of writing a check

    I don’t think it makes sense to pay taxes with a card that gets less than 2%, unless you’re trying to meet the minimum spend, but if April 15 rolls around and you owe Uncle Sam anyway you might as well squeeze that .13% out of the deal. You might only net a few bucks, but when was the last time you got paid to “stick it to the man?” Put on some sunglasses and pretend you’re a rebel while entering your digits.

    • But unless it’s 2% cashback or statement credit, you’re not really making a profit…you’re making a 0.13% theoretical profit in a less flexible currency. This is only a true profit if you can efficiently use the currency you just traded your real money for and also assuming you would have spent that money for that same purpose anyway.

      • Curmudgeon says:

        I thought the implication of using a cash back card was obvious, but I guess not. Using a card that earns “SkyPesos” or low value points like Hilton would be a horrible idea, but Fidelity 2%, Citi DoubleCash, Capital One 2% Spark or the USAA 2.5% cash card would make money, and as Superchurn says below, even save you a 46 cent stamp.

  25. Crys says:

    Does anyone have any thoughts or experiences on paying with money orders? I have a gzillion $500 money orders I need to get rid of!

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Chuck says:

      I’d think you can mail them in, same as a check. Not sure if it’s smart to put a whole bunch in a single envelope. Should work, but maybe they’d mistakenly only process one MO, especially if it’s a machine.

    • Jeff H says:

      I worry about lost in mail or IRS processing which has happened with checks. IMO not worth the risk since paperwork to replace MO is horridly no fun..

      I considered taking MO personally into local FED IRS or state revenue office. At least you can get a receipt and someone to look it over before sending. ALL PAYMENTS BY CHECK or MO MUST HAVE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER ON IT. Payments via one of the services here include your SSN in their process.

  26. Dave says:

    I have the old Priceline card, 3.3% effectively when points are redeemed against Priceline purchases. It’s been my go to for taxes. Or my united club card if I need to top off miles at 1.5 miles per dollar.

  27. Superchurn says:

    Agree with Curmudgeon. It’s really no different than any other online bill pay, and CC is easiest to pay with. Even saves the cost of a stamp to send a check in.

    even if only using a 2% card, 0.13% of my tax bill is still a few absolutely free (and tax free) dollars in my pocket

  28. tck says:

    Thinking of getting the Amex Business Platinum just because I have a large capital gains tax bill coming up that I will be able to meet the 15K spend with. Thoughts? I am 4/24 CSR, CSP, CFU, Ink+

  29. Curmudgeon says:

    William:

    Correction for your fee table: Official Payments charges a flat $2.25 fee for debit up to $1000 (not $2.50)

    Digital Wallet includes:
    – Visa Checkout (all 3 services)
    – Masterpass (PayUSAtax & Pay1040)
    – Paypal (PayUSAtax only)
    – Amex Express Checkout (PayUSAtax only)

  30. matt says:

    I think someone above had a similar question, but not sure it was quite answered. If I’ve already made a prepayment this month for 2016 (but was expecting a refund anyway), do I note the credit card prepayment on my 1040 anywhere? Or should my 1040 only reflect the taxes paid via withholding (as reflected on W2) and the IRS will simply add the prepayment to the refund that is issued?

    • Jeff H says:

      You should review the forms so that all your various payments are in the appropriate place.
      Most tax software will do so in an organized way. There is a 1040 box 21 and 57 to 74 that should total up to all the different payments. YMMV by the types of tax payments and tax form.

      No guarantee that I got all the box numbers correct.

  31. Michael says:

    I have been using US Bank issued Mastercard gift cards (mygiftcardsite ones) to pay taxes for five years. I have had no trouble in the past including the most recent September 2016 payments. My extension payment today had trouble. The card no longer authorizes using either Official Payments or Pay10140 (Link2GovCorporation); it does not even attempt an authorization. The payment did work on PayUSAtax but that is the most expensive option. Anybody else experiencing problems with prepaying taxes with gift cards now?

    • Jeff H says:

      Many of the giftcard sites including USB are requiring you to register each card before they can be honored to make these payments on line. I had no problem AFTER registering each card.
      Registration can be on line or by calling card customer service.

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  34. rp says:

    for those who use Turbotax to file: I put the payment I made via pay1040.com at “additional tax withholding not on W2” in TurboTax. Now IRS is processing my refund, it turns out that they are refunding everything I’m owed according to TurboTax PLUS the pay1040.com amount. So apparently I was not supposed to put the prepayment under “additional withholding” in TurboTax. I’ll probably file an amend and pay IRS the amount again, which means I’ll get to use credit card again for pay1040.com, not a terrible outcome either.
    TL;DR: Do NOT put your prepayment anywhere in TurboTax, as IRS will refund you the money you are due plus your prepayment in the end.

  35. Jan B says:

    Ok, weighing in. The time doth approach and I will have to file an extension and pay $5K to go with it.

    My thought is use my BOA TR Visa. So, I pay $5093.50 and receive back around 7600 points (Plus a BOA customer bonus) toward past travel expenses awaiting redemption. In round numbers, that’s about $75 returning to me to cover a past Frequent Flyer points ticket using miles and close in ticket issuance fee of $75. That may not seem like a win to many who frequent here but it’s a win-win for me.

  36. Steibe says:

    Hi there – I owe $55k in Federal Taxes and around $10k in CA State Taxes. I’m considering paying just the full $55k in Federal Taxes on my Amex Biz Platinum through Pay1040.com, due to there not being a credit limit on that card and the fee only being 1.87%. I also have the Chase Freedom Unlimited ($10k credit line) along with the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($35k credit line), and the Capital One Spark Biz ($20k credit line). I was also possibly considering putting $20k on the Capital One Spark Biz card, and then the remaining $35k on the Amex Biz Platinum, but I’m wondering which would be the better bang for my buck as far was maximizing my point return?
    I know that I could divide this $55k up between 2 cards but my credit lines will not cover the $55k that I owe to the Feds, unless I were to put it all on the Amex Biz Platinum, or do a mix of the Amex Biz Platinum and my CSR, Chase Freedom Unlimited or the Capital One Spark Biz card, therefore, I was considering paying the full $55k with the Amex Biz Platinum, which would be $1,028.50 in total fees, in order to get 82.5k Membership Rewards points..
    My question is, do you think this is a sound idea to use the Amex Biz Platinum to pay the full $55k, or does it make more sense to use my Chase Freedom Unlimited to pay the $10k and then send the rest by check? Also, doesn’t me paying the $55k via a credit card and then paying it off on my next billing cycle improve my credit score, due to me utilizing that much spend.. I would think that would count towards my credit history?
    Lastly, does anyone know as to whether you can do a partial payments via 2 credit cards on Pay1040.com, and then pay the remaining balance via the IRS Direct Pay website? I’m basically paying the estimated taxes and need to file an extension, but it’s my understanding that the payment via Pay1040.com or the IRS website automatically extends my return, without having to file IRS Form 4868?
    Sorry for the litany of questions and any info would be greatly appreciated – Thanks and LOVE your blog!!

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  38. trifecta guy says:

    Do estimated payments made through plastiq show up on eftps like the other payment processors?

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