Here's How Much to Panic if You Can't Pay Your Taxes

April 17, Tax Day 2018, is swiftly approaching, and a nonzero number of us are probably still scrambling to file. Some of it is pure procrastination, but if you're wondering whether the government will notice if you just skip it all this year, spoiler alert: They will notice.

In 2017, about 30 percent of American taxpayers had to foot the bill for the entire country. The rest got refunds, though that's not counting state taxes. If you're anxious about being able to pay at all, take a breath and know your options. For those making under $54,000 a year, you're eligible for free tax prep by qualified volunteers, which takes the heat off you for filing.

Next, understand that even if you do owe the government, you can actually pay what you can over up to four months. That's called a full-payment agreement, and it will save you from dings on your credit score, expensive failure-to-file penalties, and in certain cases, legal trouble. For bigger bills, find out if you're eligible for an installment agreement. This also allows you to pay down your taxes over 120 days, but it may involve fees, as well as interest and penalties.

If you're super extra broke, the Internal Revenue Service may agree to temporarily delay the collection process, but be warned: This could involve liens on your property. Overall, it's far better to move forward with the process as transparently as possible, even if it's humbling or embarrassing. An audit might prove only the best of several bad options otherwise.