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Can the IRS Take My Pension?

The IRS is responsible for collecting taxes to fund government operations. While the IRS has various tools at its disposal to ensure tax compliance, there are limitations on what assets it can seize. One question that often arises is whether the IRS has the authority to take pensions. In this article, we will explore the complexities surrounding this issue and understand the safeguards in place to protect retirement savings. 

Understanding the IRS Collection Powers 

The IRS has broad collection powers, allowing it to pursue various avenues to collect unpaid taxes. These powers include placing liens on property, garnishing wages, and seizing assets. Unfortunately, if you owe back taxes, the IRS has the full authority to garnish your pensions and other retirement income.  

At What Point Does the IRS Garnish Pensions? 

If you owe back taxes, almost all assets and income will be at risk of garnishment. However, the IRS consider garnishment a last-resort option. In other words, they will make plenty of attempts to collect from you through IRS notices. Before the IRS can seize or garnish your assets, they must send you a final notice of intent to garnish your wages. If you do not pay them or make any attempt to contact them, they will move forward with collecting.  

The IRS will audit you to get a full understanding of your assets that can pay off your tax liability. These can include normal assets like homes, vehicles, and regular income. It can also include pensions, Social Security payments, retirement funds, and more. But the IRS is more likely to seize retirement accounts if you are considered a flagrant taxpayer. In other words, if you purposely evaded paying taxes, they are more likely to resort to taking retirement funds. 

How Much of My Pension Can the IRS Take? 

Even though the IRS can take your pension, there are some limitations they must follow. These limitations depend on the type of pension you have and the laws that apply to that pension type. For example, the IRS can garnish up to 25% of your private pension and 15% of your Social Security benefits.  

The Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) is a federal statute that governs how debts are collected, including federal tax debt. Title III of the CCPA allows up to 50% to 60% of a taxpayer’s disposable income to be garnished to pay federal or state taxes. If the taxpayer is supporting a spouse or child, the garnished amount is 50% of their disposable income and 60% if they are not. Disposable income is the amount of income left over after certain deductions, such as taxes, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and state employee retirement systems. Ineligible deductions can include health insurance and charitable contributions. 

Strategies to Address Tax Issues 

If an individual is facing tax liabilities that they are unable to pay, it is advisable to explore alternative options before retirement accounts become vulnerable. These may include negotiating a payment plan with the IRS, seeking professional tax advice, or considering other tax resolution strategies. 

Tax Help for Those with Pensions 

In general, the IRS will avoid seizing pensions until it is clear or obvious that you are evading taxes. The protection of retirement savings is vital to encourage individuals to plan for their future. However, it is crucial for individuals to address tax issues promptly and explore available options to prevent potential collection efforts by the IRS. Seeking professional advice and understanding one’s rights and obligations can go a long way in navigating the complexities of tax collection. Optima Tax Relief is the nation’s leading tax resolution firm with over $1 billion in resolved tax liabilities.  

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