Debt Settlement – What You Need to Know

Are your credit card payments more than you can afford to pay each month? If so, it’s not likely that you’re able to afford to pay extra money toward each account, which would enable you to pay off your credit card debt at a much faster rate than if you simply pay the minimum required payments. If you’re frustrated and feeling like you’ll be in debt forever it’s time to take a realistic approach to determine what path toward a debt-free lifestyle you should take.

Even before you start looking at your options, however, take a few moments to cut up your credit cards because those little pieces of plastic have done you absolutely no favors. As a matter of fact, they’ve very likely led to numerous sleepless nights and constant worry due to significant financial concerns.

Now, if you’re in serious financial trouble due to credit card debt, and you’ve considered bankruptcy, consumer credit counseling service, debt consolidation and debt settlement as possible solutions to help eliminate your debt, you may have decided that debt settlement sounds like your best option to become debt-free. If so, you probably have some questions or concerns regarding debt settlement, and who can blame you? After all, each potential option has both pros and cons, which should be examined closely.

Let’s start with the potential negative effects of debt settlement:

Credit Score – If your credit score is pretty decent, it’s likely that it will be reduced during the process of debt settlement. You see, if your accounts are current, and you attempt to negotiate with your creditors to achieve a reduced pay-off amount, you won’t be taken seriously. It’s unfortunate, but creditors don’t really care if you’re having difficulty meeting your financial obligations and, therefore, won’t cooperate with you – that is, unless your account is seriously delinquent. Only after you’ve demonstrated just how serious your financial troubles are (by not making your payments for a few months), will creditors begin to make an effort to assist you. So, yes, if you have a decent credit score debt settlement may have a negative impact.
Tax Liability – Debt settlement may also result in a possible tax liability when it’s time to file your income taxes. You see, creditors are required to report any forgiven debt, which exceeds $600.00, to the IRS. You’ll receive IRS Form 1099 for the amount of the forgiven debt, but it’s important to speak with a tax professional because if you’re classified as “insolvent” at the time you negotiated and paid your settlement(s) you will not be liable for any income tax. In order to qualify for this classification, your liabilities must exceed your assets.
Sufficient Funds – If you’re contemplating debt settlement it’s crucial to understand that you must have access to sufficient funds to follow through with a reached settlement agreement with your creditors, otherwise, the negotiated settlement agreement will become null and void. In other words, if you have an account balance of $40,000 and your creditor agrees to accept 50% or less as payment in full, you must have the ability to make that payment by the given deadline. Oftentimes, creditors agree to accept the settlement amount in 4-6 installments in order to ensure that the settlement agreement is successfully completed

While the aforementioned potential effects of debt settlement are common, there are also many positive effects of debt settlement, which should be taken into consideration, as well.

Debt-Free Status is Accomplished Over Shorter Period of Time – Unlike debt consolidation, consumer credit counseling or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, the process of debt settlement can be completed in a matter of months, depending on your ability to access funds to pay the reduced settlement balances to your creditors. You see, consumer credit counseling and debt consolidation loans both consist of long-term payment agreements, which can last from 5-10 years. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy also involves a long-term repayment schedule, usually about five years. So if you’re anxious to put your debt behind you sooner rather than later, you’ll be pleased with your decision to choose debt settlement to resolve your various creditor accounts.
Improved Credit Score – While debt settlement may initially impact your credit score, the end result will be a much improved credit score. You see, one of the major factors taken into consideration in credit scoring is the amount of outstanding debt you actually owe. Once your creditors notify the credit bureaus of your updated status, and that your accounts have zero balances, you’ll see an immediate increase in your credit score. Also, as each month passes, the negative marks on your credit report will have much less of an impact on the actual score. Chances are, you’ll have a higher score within a year of completion of the debt settlement process than you had prior to entering to a debt settlement program.
Debt Settlement Leads to Financial Freedom – Making the decision to commit to a debt settlement program can be difficult; after all, you’ve been struggling to pay your bills for a long time and changing your “money methods” can be unsettling. That being said, the majority of individuals who choose debt settlement find that they feel a great sense of relief once the process begins, and an even greater sense of relief after all of their accounts have been paid in full, and no further money is owed. No price can be put on a worry-free lifestyle and financial freedom.

Just as with most decisions you’re faced with, the solution to your financial problems has many factors to be addressed and considered – both positive and negative. In the end, it’s important to base your decision on your own personal needs and ability.

Marie Megge is a consultant in the credit services industry. Over the past several years she has assisted many individuals in resolving their debt-related matters. For more information regarding credit and debt visit