Question: I have my own business, and I do my own taxes. It’s a one-man operation, but I make a good living. I also like to have complete control over the business. That’s why I do my own taxes, I guess. Wasn’t that a mistake! I got some advice online, read a few books, and made a number of write-offs on last year’s return. That resulted in an IRS audit. Now the government says I owe $25,000 in back taxes. I can’t pay that tomorrow. What can I do?

Answer: You’re not the first person I’ve talked to who has suffered this fate. Small-business owners who do their own taxes often research write-offs to reduce the amount owed. They sometimes get bad information and often become overzealous and write off expenses that aren’t allowed by law. That can raise red flags and result in audits, such as the one you received.

From your question, it sounds like you so have the financial resources to pay the $25,000 tax bill, even though you do not have the immediate cash available. For this reason, your best action would be to consult with a qualified tax professional about hammering out an agreement with the IRS that would allow you to make installments.

IRS agents realize that few people have large sums of liquid capital available. How many people can cut a check for $25,000 on command? Not many. That’s why the IRS provides installment plans. For qualifying taxpayers, the IRS allows debtors to pay a small monthly amount over a set period of time. It’s similar to the way you pay your mortgage or car loan.

Keep in mind, however, that the $25,000 figure may not be accurate. You may actually owe much less. A qualified tax professional will analyze your previous tax return, expenses and receipts to find the exact amount owed. This could be thousands of dollars below what you currently think you owe. Following that process, your tax professional can discuss an installment plan with the IRS.