What Is Debt Settlement?

Debt settlement, also known as debt arbitration, debt negotiation or credit settlement, is an approach to debt reduction in which the debtor and creditor agree on a reduced balance that will be regarded as payment in full. Debt settlement is often confused with debt consolidation or debt management. In debt consolidation and debt management, the consumer makes monthly payments to the debt consolidator, who takes a fee and passes the rest on to the creditors; this way, creditors continue to receive payments each month. In debt settlement, the consumer makes monthly payments, out of which the debt settlement company takes its fees for the legal work / negotiation and payments are paid to the creditor.

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How Effective Is Debt Settlement?

Settlement is one of the most effective choices available to consumers. It's a great choice if you have more debt than you can pay off in a 2 – 3 year time frame or are experiencing a financial hardship that has you falling behind (or just about to be) on your monthly payments. Why would creditors choose to settle debts rather than simply charge you interest and late fees over and over again? Well, it's really a matter of dollars and good sense. Creditors know that if you get into such a bad financial position that you can't pay your monthly payments, you may decide to declare bankruptcy or simply do nothing. In this case they may get nothing! Therefore, they are usually very willing to settle for a lower amount, given your hardship, than risk getting nothing at all, especially with a bankruptcy among the alternatives.


Where Can I Find A Trusted Debt Settlement Firm?

With the huge rise in unemployment, unmanageable debt, economic problems, and uncertainty in the marketplace, many fly-by-night companies have sprouted up offering debt settlement to consumers that are not legitimate; in fact many are nothing more than scams. Some offer unrealistic settlement expectations or promise nearly impossible monthly payments and time horizons. They are simply doing this to make a quick buck at your expense!

A good debt settlement firm always trains its agents to help you understand what your options are and is very realistic with you about what to expect. Often, companies simply looking to scam you look to collect fees up front regardless of whether they stand behind their promises.

Be very careful! Many firms advertising an offer for debt settlement services are nothing more than lead generation firms that may sell your information to several potentially unscrupulous firms. Many of them will end up barraging you with constant phone calls and have nothing to do with the company you "thought" you were contacting. Make sure to clearly read and understand the privacy policy and terms of use of any firm that you call on or submit your information to.


Can I Settle My Debts On My Own?

If you have just a couple debts or less than $10,000 in debt, you could to try to talk to your creditors directly to settle the accounts yourself. There is a lot of information publicly available to assist with this, but word to the wise: If you owe over $10,000 in debt, have several accounts you need to settle, or need the structure and the guidance of a knowledgeable professional, you should seek out the assistance of a knowledgeable debt settlement firm.

Debt settlement is by no means an exact science. And it's difficult for an individual lacking experience with creditors to determine whether a settlement is fair or not. In addition, you have to directly handle all creditor calls and the harassment that comes with the job. Many people are simply unable or uninterested in handling that kind of pressure, especially with the daily complexities of managing a job, household or family at the same time.

Hiring a professional debt settlement firm with a good reputation can no doubt save you more money, give you better advice, and get you out of debt in a much less stressful manner, enabling you can move on with your life. Always make sure that you heavily screen who you are working with, and especially make sure that they are a fully accredited organization by a major industry association. TASC (The Association of Settlement Companies) is by far one of the most successful of these. Many if not most legitimate firms will at the very least be a member.


How Will Debt Settlement Affect My Taxes?

In general, in the United States, the IRS considers debt which is forgiven as income. This means if you borrow $15,000 on your credit cards and settle it for $8,000, the $7,000 difference is taxable as income since it is not repaid. However, the IRS will often waive this tax liability if you can show that you were insolvent during the time in which your debt settlement took place. We highly recommend a quick call to your accountant or tax professional for further discussion. You may be relieved with what they have to say!

There are always very clear and real responsibilities when dealing with debt, especially when you don't pay back 100% of what you owe. However, once you can remove your debt problem from your life, a whole new world of opportunity can open up for you.

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