A tax lien, not to be confused with a tax levy, is a hold that the IRS places against some or all your assets. By doing so, the IRS is attempting to ensure that it receives payment for the unpaid taxes that you owe.
But there are five circumstances by which taxpayers can potentially avoid an IRS tax lien. A tax professional like those from Optima Tax Relief can help you determine the best method to avoid a tax lien or a more serious tax levy.
1. Pay the Taxes You Owe in Full
If you can afford to pay the taxes that you owe in full, you can stop an IRS lien in its tracks. The IRS allows you to make payments directly from your bank account or by debit or credit card through a third-party processing service. You may also use the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) to make a secure electronic payment. Or you may go the low-tech route and mail a check or money order, or deliver your payment in person to your local IRS office.
2. Enter into a Guaranteed Installment Agreement
If you cannot pay your entire tax balance in full, but owe less than $10,000, you may still avoid a tax lien. By entering into a Guaranteed Installment Agreement, you set an agreement by which the IRS will receive your entire tax balance due in monthly installment payments. The amount of each monthly payment and the length of the entire installment agreement vary according to how much tax you owe.
3. Enter into a Streamlined Installment Agreement
If you owe between $10,000 and $25,000 in unpaid taxes, you can still avoid a tax lien from the IRS. A Streamlined Installment Agreement works much the same way as a Guaranteed Installment Agreement. The end result is the same; you eventually pay your entire amount that you owe in federal income taxes.
4. Pay Down Your Balance
If you owe more than $25,000 in back taxes to the IRS, you must pay down your balance to less than $25,000 to avoid a federal tax lien. This payment must take place before a lien is imposed. Once your unpaid tax balance is below $25,000, you may enter into a Streamlined Installment Agreement.
5. File an Offer in Compromise
If you can only afford to pay a portion of your back federal taxes, you may still avoid a tax lien by filing an Offer in Compromise. If accepted, an Offer in Compromise allows you to settle your tax obligation with the IRS for less than the total federal taxes owed. But you should be forewarned: the IRS is stringent about accepting Offers in Compromise. The process for reviewing Offer in Compromise applications can be lengthy. There is also no guarantee that the IRS would not impose a tax lien while you are waiting for a decision on your Offer in Compromise application.