Why You Probably Shouldn't Use A Credit Card To Pay Your Taxes

As the deadline for filing your federal tax return draws near, so does the anxiety of how you’re going to pay Uncle Sam the money you owe. If you can’t write a check for the full amount, the simplest and fastest way could be to put it on your credit card. But that’s probably not a good idea.

The first thing to consider is the interest rate on your credit card. Most cards carry an APR higher than 12% so while putting that tax bill on your card is a quick way to get the government off your back, it can quickly balloon into a huge pile of debt if you don’t pay off that credit card bill on time.

Then there is the “convenience fee” of anywhere from 1.89% to 2.35% of your total tax bill. This is really just the fee usually paid for by the merchant when you pay by credit card, but now it gets added on top of your taxes. For people who owe a small amount of money, the convenience fee may not sting too badly. But if you owe several thousand dollars in taxes, the fee can mean hundreds of additional dollars out of your pocket.

The folks at SmartMoney suggest that if you need to stretch out those tax payments, contact the IRS first:

You may qualify to set up an installment-payment plan with the government. If so, this may be the cheapest way to go. You’ll be charged a $52 setup fee (assuming you arrange for automatic payments out of your checking account) and then a monthly interest rate on the outstanding balance. Currently, that interest rate is 0.5% per month (which equates to 6% annually). However, the interest rate is subject to change every quarter. File IRS Form 9465 to get that ball rolling.

If you do happen to have a credit card with an APR below 6% and that convenience fee won’t be more than $52, then you could possibly consider paying with plastic.

Should I Pay My Taxes With Plastic? [SmartMoney.com]