Pay taxes via credit card, 2018 edition

Preparing taxes is no fun. No fun at all. But paying taxes doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, it can be quite rewarding to pay taxes via credit card. The key is to earn credit card rewards that more than offset tax payment fees. Here’s what you need to know…

pay federal taxes with a credit card

Pay taxes via credit card: Background

Here is some key information you’ll need to know about paying taxes with credit or debit cards:

Credit card fee 1.87% to 1.99%: The IRS maintains a list of companies that accept credit and debit cards towards tax payments. You can find the current information by clicking here. Currently there are three separate payment processing companies on the list. At the time of this writing, debit card fees range from $2 to $2.59 per transaction and credit card fees range from 1.87% to 1.99%. Alternatively, you can pay taxes via the Plastiq Bill Pay service, but that will cost you more: 2.5%.

Two payment limit (per processor): The IRS maintains a table of frequency limits for paying taxes via credit or debit card (found here). In general, they say you can make up to two payments per tax period per type of tax payment. For example, you can make 2 payments every quarter to your quarterly estimated taxes, and you can make 2 payments every year to your annual taxes. Important: In my experience, these limits are enforced per payment processing company. That means that you can really make up to 6 payments per tax period per type of tax payment. An IRS advisor I spoke with several years ago did not think that there would be any problem with making more than 2 payments by using different processors. Since then, I have made more than 2 payments per tax period many times and never had any issues. That is, of course, just my own personal experience. I can’t guarantee that your outcome would be the same.

No cash advance fees: I’m often asked whether credit card companies charge cash advance fees when paying taxes by credit card. The answer is no. All three payment processors agree (via their FAQ pages) that the payment is treated as a purchase not a cash advance. You can find FAQ info here, here, and here.

Unlimited payments via Plastiq: If you’re willing to incur slightly higher fees, you can make an unlimited number of tax payments via the Plastiq bill pay service. Plastiq usually charges 2.5% to pay bills (including taxes) via credit card, but they occasionally offer lower fees via short term promotions. For details, please see: Plastiq Bill Payment Service.

And here’s Plastiq’s tax payment screen: plastiq.com/us-taxes.

Fees no longer deductible: Tax preparation fees used to be deductible when itemizing deductions, but that is no longer the case with the latest tax bill in effect.

View tax payment history: Once you’ve made payments through online processors, you may want to see proof that the IRS received the amount you sent. You can view past payments by signing up here: irs.gov/payments/view-your-tax-account.

Reporting estimated payments: Estimated payments should be reported when filing your annual taxes on line 65 of Form 1040 or line 41 of Form 1040A. In my experience, if you make a mistake and forget to report some of these payments, the IRS will catch the error and refund the difference.

Paying end of year taxes: Tell your tax preparer or tax software that you’ll pay via check. Then, browse to the appropriate tax payment site (e.g. Pay1040.com, OfficialPayments.com, or PayUSAtax.com) to pay your taxes. There is no need to mail in the 1040V payment voucher.

Samsung Pay & Google Pay

Some tax payment websites support mobile wallet payments such as Samsung Pay or Google Pay.  The US Bank Altitude Reserve card earns 3X for mobile wallet payments, so it should be a great match. However, readers have reported that Samsung / Android Pay (Google Pay) are only supported through Visa Checkout and that this does not trigger the Altitude’s 3X rewards.

Top 5 reasons to pay federal taxes with a credit card or gift card

1. Profit

A number of credit cards earn cash rewards greater than 1.87%.The best of the best is the Discover It Miles card which earns 1.5% cash back and doubles all cash back earned during your first year of card membership. So, if you have the card and you’re still in your first year of card membership, you’ll make a profit by paying your taxes with your credit card. Since you’ll earn 3% cash back on both the base tax payment and the processing fees, your profit should be approximately 1.186% of your tax payment.

Example:

  • $10,000 tax payment + 1.87% fee = $10,187
  • Cash back earned at 3% = $305.61
  • Profit = $305.61 – $187 = $118.61 (1.186% of $10K)

2. Meet minimum spend requirements

If you recently signed up for new credit cards, chances are good that you have to spend thousands of dollars in order to earn the associated signup bonuses. Paying taxes is a fairly cheap and easy way to accomplish that.

3. Buy miles cheaply

Several credit cards offer up to 1.5 miles per dollar for spend. In these cases, a 1.87% tax payment fee means that you can essentially buy miles for 1.22 cents per dollar. Even better, the Amex Blue Business Plus credit card earns 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar. In this case you can essentially buy miles for 0.92 cents per dollar.

2X Example:

  • $10,000 tax payment + 1.87% fee = $10,187
  • Miles earned at 2X = 20,374
  • Cost per mile = $187 / 20,374 = 0.92 cents per mile

1.5X Example:

  • $10,000 tax payment + 1.87% fee = $10,187
  • Miles earned at 1.5X = 15,281
  • Cost per mile = $187 / 15,281 = 1.22 cents per mile

Cards that offer 2X airline miles per dollar:

Cards that offer 1.5X airline miles per dollar:

4. Earn valuable big spend bonuses: elite status, free nights, companion pass, etc.

Many credit cards offer bonuses for meeting high spend thresholds. You can find a comprehensive list here: Best big spend bonuses. Here are a few examples:

  • Amex Delta Reserve or Delta Reserve Business: Spend $30,000, get 15,000 bonus miles plus 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (towards elite status). At $60,000 spend, get another 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles.
  • Amex Delta Platinum or Delta Platinum Business: Spend $25,000, get 10,000 bonus miles plus 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (towards elite status). At $50,000 spend, get another 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles.
  • Southwest Plus, Southwest Premier, or Southwest Business: With Southwest, when you earn 110,000 points in a calendar year (including points earned from credit card spend) you get a companion pass good for an unlimited number of flights for the rest of that year and all of the next calendar year.
  • Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Visa: Earn Platinum status with $75,000 in annual spend.
  • Barclaycard JetBlue Plus, or JetBlue Business: Spend $50,000 and get Mosaic status which offers free changes and cancellations; free checked bags; expedited security; early boarding; free drinks; enhanced point earnings; and 15,000 bonus points upon qualifying.

5. Liquidate Visa/MasterCard gift cards cheaply

Visa and MasterCard gift cards are debit cards. As such, they qualify for low flat fees for debit tax payments: $2.25, $2.59, or $2.65 (depending upon the tax processor you use). In other words, your cost to liquidate $500 gift cards will be approximately half a percent (0.5% to 0.54%). That’s pretty cheap.

If you use $500 Visa/MasterCard gift cards, then you can pay the following amounts:

  • PayUSAtax.com ($2.58 fee): Make a $497.42 payment.
  • Pay1040.com ($2.59 fee): Make a $497.41 payment.
  • OfficialPayments.com ($2 fee): Make a $498 payment.

The biggest problem with this is the IRS imposed 2 payments per processor limit. Online, this means that you can liquidate no more than 6 gift cards per type of tax payment. Via phone, though, you may find a tax processor willing to accept multiple debit cards for a single overall payment. Specifically, OfficialPayments is known to accept multiple gift cards via phone. When you make multiple payments over the phone, you do pay the $2.25 fee for each gift card. Unfortunately, OfficialPayments no longer works with Visa gift cards. Some Mastercard gift cards work, though (see below)

Which gift cards work?

  • Visa gift card issued by Metabank via PayUSAtax online
  • Visa gift card issued by Metabank via Pay1040 online
  • Mastercard gift cards from Giftcards.com work with all three processors

Which gift cards don’t work?

  • Visa gift cards via OfficialPayments do not work
  • Some Mastercard gift cards via OfficialPayments process as credit cards rather than debit cards (one known example are the US Bank Mastercards typically bought at grocery stores).

See also: Best options for buying Visa and MasterCard gift cards.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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Sam
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Sam

1. Didn’t the deduction for miscellaneous expenses get eliminated in the 2017 tax bill?

2. Are you saying $2.50 to offload and $500 gift card is a good price?

TravelBloggerBuzzt
Guest

Yes those miscellaneous deductions are gone with the tax law currently in effect.

MSCY
Guest
MSCY

If you typically get a refund, can you still make a payment and increase the refund?

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Yes I do it every year and have been stopped @ 2 payments too .My CPA told they love using ur money .Next payment 3/1 to get a min spend then go find another card .

Brian
Guest
Brian

Are you recommending to float this money for the year or are you suggesting to actually pay your taxes as the year goes along? Is it beneficial to change your W4 so there is no taxes taken out, therefore you have more money to pay the credit card bill thst you will incur from pre paying taxed?

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

U don’t float anything on a CC u will go broke .I paid on 1/10 taxes for 2017 then file ASAP then u get it back .My CPA wants me to use last years payment to pay 2018 .No thanks I can never meet the $5K spend on these cards. I also pay my Ins @ no Fee too .

Ed
Guest
Ed

Your comment about using Android Pay and Samsung Pay is new information to me. I’d love to see more info (maybe a blog post) on the mechanics of doing this for those of us who are mobile pay challenged. I’ve tried to use Android Pay with my Freedom card this quarter, but I’m having difficulty getting it to work for reasons that remain mysterious to me. So this would be an easy way to hit this quarter’s Freedom 5x bonus.

Rabbmd
Guest
Rabbmd

While the 2%agi miscellaneous deduction is gone from schedule a fir deduction of these fees, my non accountant understanding of this issue, is that these fees could still be deductible on schedule c if you run a business.

Sam
Guest
Sam

Are costs of filing one’s individual taxes an ordinary and necessary expense of running that busniness?

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Has anyone had experience filing the taxes with Turbotax, then paying the amount through another site? I assume it should work if you just choose “I’ll pay by check” before filing, but I can’t seem to find concrete evidence of it.

Rajesh
Guest
Rajesh

Hello, I would like to know the answer to the above as well. Did you find out?

Ben
Guest
Ben

I’m curious if anyone has hit this hard? I’m due a refund already, and I’m toying with the idea of paying by CC to get a BIGGER refund. But it seems like doing anything worthwhile (e.g. $10K?) could raise red flags. Even if everything’s entirely on the level, just dealing with IRS scrutiny or an audit wouldn’t be worth the points.

Matt Frankel
Guest
Matt Frankel

There’s no IRS penalty for over-paying expected taxes, even if it’s done to get points. In fact, by doing so, the IRS is effectively getting an interest-free loan from you, until your refund is processed. Plus, refunds in the $10k ballpark aren’t too uncommon, especially with high-dollar tax credits such as the EITC, child tax credit, electric vehicle credit, and the two tuition tax credits. Hope this helps!

rfclub
Guest
rfclub

US Bank Master card GC is processed as debit card in officialpayment.
working fine for couple months.

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

It’s been a few months, but I read a comment (reddit?) where someone claimed that Amex denied their sign up bonus based on federal taxes doesn’t qualify. Any knowledge of Amex qualifying / disqualifying federal income tax payment for minimum required spend? Thanks.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Just paid Fed Taxes on Hilton AMEX got the 125K as in Cairns Au 5 nites .Never had any trouble on IL Tax too.
CHEERs

Terry
Guest
Terry

Greg, Thanks for a well written and very useful article.

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[…] is a good comprehensive post: Pay taxes via credit card, 2018 edition. Preferably, you pay using IRS Direct Pay and avoid ALL fees! But if you are okay with the fees, […]

AR
Guest
AR

I’m trying to understand this a little better. I’m a little confused with the years, and to which time period those payments will apply.

If I make a payment today on pay1040.com on the Form 1040 series for the 2017 year, I will get a refund once I file my taxes. Is that correct?

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Call a CPA don’t mess with Uncle Sam u don’t want to Open up a can of Roaches .I paid 1/10 for 2017 ES and I CAN”T pay till 3/1/2018 for 2018ES .

trackback

[…] Pay taxes via credit card, 2018 edition […]

BL
Guest
BL

After just reading your article on Altitude Reserve redeeming 1.5 on any travel, I’m now interested to keep the card after first year and pay tax with it with Android Pay! But this flyer talk thread seems to indicate that doing Samsun/Android pay via Visa Checkout doesn’t earn the 3x, which I believe is what Payusatax.com is doing. That’s too bad.

aftrhrs
Guest
aftrhrs

Do you know if any of these guys do State taxes?

Angie D
Guest
Angie D

This part is what I was searching for… are credit card purchases categorized as a purchase OR cash advance. You’re article answered my question that the credit card companies consider it as a purchse. That is great news and Thank You!!!

Charles
Guest
Charles

Greg, thanks for the great info. One question – are you sure it is still true that “OfficialPayments is known to accept multiple gift cards via phone”? I tried today (3/12) to pay using three Mastercard gift cards on the phone with OfficialPayments, and the representative was only able to process two cards, and third one did not go through (she took the third card and tried, but it didn’t work).

trackback

[…] It’s always nice to save money that you would otherwise spend. Gift cards like these can also sometimes come in handy for meeting minimum spend by essentially pre-paying for gift card credit that know you’ll spend at a merchant you frequent. That said, Amex has certainly been discouraging gift card spend for the purposes of minimum spend requirements. If you’re looking to meet send on an Amex card, you might want to check out Greg’s morning post: Pay taxes via credit card, 2018 edition. […]

Steelsnow
Guest
Steelsnow

Did anyone successfully try the Android pay with the Chase Freedom Q1 bonus? Would like to use up remaining Q1 spend, but also knowing that the Freedom Q2 bonus will also include PayPal 5x for PayUSAtax, which should take the VisaCheckout question out of the equation.

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

USB AR doesn’t award you 3x when using Visa Checkout. Android/Apple/Samsung Pay is supported via Visa Checkout on payUSAtax. So this is not an option.
I’ve also seen another DP for Freedom with that. 1x only.

Izzy
Guest
Izzy

PayUSATax via Paypal should earn 5% on Freedom up to $1,500 in April.

Ruth R
Guest
Ruth R

I will be overpaying my 2017 year end taxes. Does anyone have a guess about how long it may be before I get the check for the overpayment?

dan
Guest
dan

as greg replied to the same ? earlier, the refund will be issued when the tax return for 2017 is filed

Ruth
Guest
Ruth

I read the post and every comment. I know what Greg said. I was asking if anyone knew about how long the refund would take.

dan
Guest
dan

the irs should have a good answer for u

dan
Guest
dan

greg or anyone, if paying today for 2017 tax yr, can we claim it on the tax filing on the last day 2morrow?

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[…] Pay taxes via credit card, 2018 edition from Frequent Miler […]

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[…] on how you value Avios, this promotion might be worthwhile for paying estimated taxes (See: Pay taxes via credit card, 2018 edition). You would pay a credit card fee of 1.87%. On a $3,000 payment, that amounts to $56.10 and you […]