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Tax Day is almost here — here's what to do if you can't pay the IRS

Ignoring your tax bill is definitely not an option.
Once you know the number you owe in taxes this year, start saving for next year's tax bill now.
Once you know the number you owe in taxes this year, start saving for next year's tax bill now.Phynart Studio / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

The deadline for filing taxes is May 17 and if you're like many people, you've been procrastinating. Or perhaps you've gathered all your documents, filled out the correct forms and now there's a number staring at you with enough zeros at the end to make you do a double take.

While some of us are lucky enough to get a refund, many Americans are faced with a tax bill that they just can't pay and that's a big reason we put off doing our taxes. But ignoring the fact that you owe money to the IRS is a bad idea. NBC senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle lays out exactly what you should do when you owe a tax bill you can't pay — and gives advice on how to avoid getting into this predicament again next year.

"One of the main reasons why people procrastinate is because they don't have the money," said Ruhle in a video for TODAY. "Well here's the thing, waiting, shoving it aside, putting it in a shoe box doesn't solve it. And if you don't address this by tax deadline day, do you know what happens on May 18? You're going to owe more."

File even if you can't pay

Ruhle explained that if you don't file your taxes, the fines, fees, penalties and interest will start adding up, making the idea of skipping out on your payment a very expensive and unwise one indeed.

"If you can't pay what you owe it's only going to get worse when you lop all that stuff on top of it," she said.

Set up a payment plan

If you need an extension you can file for that, said Ruhle. Go to and find the link for what to do if you can't pay. "They'll put you on a short term payment plan," explained Ruhle, saying that you will have to pay 5 percent interest on what you owe.

Find the cash if you can

If you can find a way to make your payment without paying interest to the IRS, go for it. "If you think you can get a loan from someone or somewhere else that's lower, you might want to do that. Do the math with your credit cards."

Beware of scams

Ruhle said that there are plenty of scams out there targeting taxpayers. Beware any company or person asking for a fee to help you pay your taxes. Scammers know there are victims out there, especially during a difficult year like this past one.

Don't fall victim to pop-up ads from companies you've never heard of claiming that they will finance your taxes, said Ruhle.

"Go to, file your taxes, even if you don't have the money right now," she said. "Please file them. And take my word for it, if you don't address this and the next thing you know it's June, the IRS knows where you live. They're coming for you. So let's address it now and start chipping away at it."

Start now for next year

Ruhle wants us to also start chipping away at next year's taxes so this time next year we're not starting at square one wondering what we might owe. Remember to make those estimated tax payments and pay as you go so you won't owe.

"If you know your lifestyle isn't going to change that much next year, once you know the number you owe for this year, let's start saving for next year."

For example, if you owe $1200 this year, put away $100 a month so next year you won't have any reason to procrastinate.

"I know this is difficult, but we've got to face it, because we don't want to face fines," said Ruhle.

For more tax tips visit On the Money.