How an IRS Bank Levy Turned a Go Fund Me Campaign Into a Nightmare

How an IRS Bank Levy Turned a Go Fund Me Campaign Into a Nightmare

We get questions all the time about complex tax problems. Lately we have been hearing more about crowdfunding and the unexpected tax consequences that can arise when funds are disbursed. In an August 3rd article by Jeff Mathews, CPA, we covered some of the main crowdfunding tax issues. This week we encountered a new dilemma that may not be as uncommon as we think. Setting up accounts correctly from the start can prevent the event described below before it is too late.

TaxBuzz Question: A client of mine recently became an amputee. A friend of his set up a Go Fund Me account to raise funds for the prosthetics and related medical costs. The friend had the funds, upward of $17,000, put into his own personal checking account instead of an account in my client’s name. Well, the friend had back tax issues and the IRS levied the entire account. Gone. The obvious question is about recourse to see if the funds can be returned. My client contacted Go Fund Me to see if there was anything they could do. Maybe with proof of recipient it could be overturned. I was wondering if there is any precedent for getting a levied account reversed in this type of case. Thoughts?

One of our IRS tax problem experts chimes in…

TaxBuzz verified professional Sharon Morgan, EA, CTRS, offered the following response:

Can the Go Fund Me organizer show financial hardship?
The bank will hold the funds for 21 days before turning it over to the IRS.
If this levy will cause a financial hardship, then the IRS generally will release the funds back to the bank.
Be prepared to do a 433-F to show hardship, or if the Go Fund Me organizer has income left over at the end of the month after IRS allowable expenses, the Go Fund Me organizer can enter into an installment agreement, which will usually get the funds released.
But that wasn’t all..
The bad news is, the 21 days is well past. The friend who had established the account knew about this in June and was too embarrassed to tell the intended recipient. The money had already been sent on to the IRS. And yes, this injury has devastated him financially. He’s only 26. 

Sharon Morgan added the following alternative… 

The Go Fund Me organizer may still be able to get a reversal of the levy and the funds sent back to him. He may qualify for currently not collectible status and ride out the statute clock.
If a levy on your wages, bank account or other property is causing a hardship, you should contact the IRS at the telephone number on the levy or correspondence immediately and explain your financial situation. Service is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time, Monday through Friday.
If they determine the levy is creating an immediate economic hardship, the levy may be released. A levy release does not mean the taxpayer with the bank levy is now exempt from paying the balance. The IRS will work with the taxpayer to establish payment plans or take other steps to help him pay off the balance. To help ensure quick action, have the fax number available for the bank or employer office that is processing the levy.

Taxes and compliance are complicated issues. Making financial decisions without proper advice can be costly. Hopefully this story turns out with a happy ending. Perhaps a new campaign can be set up with Go Fund Me if the IRS response is negative.
But stay tuned.


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