IRS Tax Problems

Beat the IRS: Master Tax Liens and Levies

Beat the IRS: Master Tax Liens and Levies

Dealing with tax liens and levies can be daunting, but understanding how they work -- and how to beat them -- can help you manage and resolve federal tax trouble effectively. Here’s a comprehensive overview of what tax professionals and taxpayers need to know about these IRS enforcement actions.

What are Tax Liens and Levies?

Tax Liens: A tax lien is a legal claim by the government against your property when you neglect or fail to pay a tax debt. The lien protects the government's interest in all your assets, including real estate, personal property, and financial assets. It serves as a formal warning and restricts you from selling or refinancing your assets without satisfying the debt​.

Tax Levies: If a tax lien is the government’s claim against your property, a tax levy is the actual seizure of property to satisfy the debt. The IRS can levy your wages, bank accounts, social security benefits, and other assets if you fail to respond to their payment demands. Unlike liens, levies involve direct action where the IRS can take your money or property to settle the tax debt​.

Credit: Fertnig/Getty Images

The Process and Consequences

Notification: The IRS will first notify you of your outstanding tax debt and demand payment. If you ignore this notice, they will send a Notice of Federal Tax Lien and, eventually, a Notice of Intent to Levy. These notices are critical, as they give you the chance to resolve the issue before the IRS takes further action​. Remember, the IRS communicates via the United States Postal Service. The agency will not call you to demand payment.

Impact of Liens: A tax lien can affect your ability to sell or refinance your property. Although tax liens no longer appear on credit reports as of changes in 2017, they still present significant challenges in financial dealings. The lien remains until the debt is fully paid or settled through other arrangements​.

Impact of Levies: A levy directly impacts your day-to-day finances. For example, the IRS can garnish wages or take money directly from your bank accounts. This severe action is why it's so important to work with a qualified tax professional to address tax debts promptly and engage with the IRS to find a resolution.

Resolving Tax Liens and Levies

Paying the Debt: The most straightforward way to resolve a lien or levy is to pay the full amount you owe. Once the debt is paid, the IRS will release the lien within 30 days. If full payment isn't possible, the alternatives outlined below may be an option.

Installment Agreements: You can request to pay your debt in monthly installments. The IRS offers several payment plans that can ease the financial burden and prevent levies​. Your tax professional can help you figure out which installment agreement is best for your situation.

Offer in Compromise: This option allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount you owe if you meet certain qualifications. During the offer in compromise application process, the IRS considers one's ability to pay, income, expenses, and asset equity when evaluating your offer​.

Lien Withdrawal: In some cases, you can request a lien withdrawal to remove the public notice of the lien. This doesn’t erase the debt but can help with credit and financing issues. To apply, you’ll need to meet specific criteria outlined by the IRS.

Discharge of Property: You can apply to have a particular property removed from the lien. This can be useful if you need to sell an asset subject to a lien​.

Subordination: This process allows other creditors to move ahead of the IRS lien, making it easier to obtain a loan or mortgage.

Proactive Measures

To avoid tax liens and levies, there are several steps you can take:

Stay Informed and Responsive: Always open and respond to IRS notices. Ignoring these communications can lead to severe consequences.

Seek Professional Help: Engaging the services of a qualified tax professional to provide guidance and negotiation expertise can help you understand your tax debts and avoid aggressive collection actions​.

Use Payment Plans: If you anticipate difficulty paying your taxes, proactively arrange a payment plan with the IRS to avoid liens and levies.

Credit: ArtistGNDPhotography/Getty Images

Understanding and managing tax liens and levies is crucial for financial stability. By staying informed and proactive, you can effectively navigate these challenges and work towards resolving your tax debts.

Feature Image Credit: Sohel Parvez Haque/Getty Images

share this post
Search for matches...
Spencer Wilson

Spencer Wilson

Spencer Wilson, EA is a tax preparer based in Long Beach, CA. Spencer Wilson Financial Management Services has been serving the Greater Los Angeles Area and Orange County since 2004. <br /> We began in the heart of Naples in Long Beach and we continue to work hard offering tax preparation and planning, business accounting and bookkeeping and payroll services . <br /> We have helped many different people and businesses succeed financially and take control over their finances.

28 reviews


Recommended Professionals

In the face of economic uncertainty, TaxBuzz is the industry's most up-to-date tax information.

Join 60,000 who get our weekly newsletter. No spam.

We know tax and accounting issues are complicated.

Do you have additional questions on this topic for this author?

Related Posts

Latest Posts