Today, Optima Tax Relief’s Lead Tax Attorney, Phil Hwang, discusses levies and garnishments, including which assets the IRS can seize and how the IRS can garnish your wages.
A levy is a legal seizure against your assets that results from owing back taxes. The IRS can seize just about anything you own, including property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, some life insurance policies, and even wages. How much of your wages the IRS levies depends on a few factors, such as your filing status, the number of dependents you claim, and how often you receive a paycheck.
Unfortunately, the IRS has full discretion on how much of your paycheck they will garnish. However, the IRS can typically only garnish your disposable income each month over the exempt amount according to your standard deduction. For example, single filers have a standard deduction of $13,850 in 2023. If a single filer with no dependents gets paid weekly, their take home pay after the wage garnishment would be about $266 ($13,850 divided by 52 weeks). If you have dependents, or use a higher standard deduction, this amount will increase.
Most taxpayers who have levies just want to know how to get them removed. The simplest and most obvious answer is to pay the tax liability in full. If this isn’t an option, the next best thing to do is to set up an installment agreement with the IRS or try to claim economic hardship. Whatever your next move is, taking swift action is crucial and having a team of tax professionals in your corner can help ease the process.
Don’t miss next week’s episode where Phil will discuss tax scams. See you next Friday!
If you have an unpaid tax bill, you know the stress that comes with owing the IRS. The IRS is a powerful agency with the ability to collect what is owed to them using severe methods, like garnishing your wages or levying your bank accounts. With a 10-year statute of limitations, the agency has plenty of time to forcefully collect tax debts. While some taxpayers might want to ignore their tax bills, doing so comes with many risks. Here are some of the top risks of owing the IRS.
The IRS will collect.
The IRS will always warn you of intent to collect or enforce through IRS notices. After these notices have been ignored, the IRS will place you in their Automated Collection System (ACS), which can issue liens, levy your bank accounts, and garnish your wages. Alternatively, the IRS may turn your tax debt over to a debt-collection agency.
The IRS may file a federal tax lien.
If a tax balance goes unpaid and notices are ignored, the IRS can file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien, which lets creditors know that you have tax debt. A lien is a legal claim against a property, usually placed because the property owner owes someone money. Liens can not only hinder your ability to access credit, but they can also damage your reputation since they are public information.
The IRS can seize your assets.
If a tax balance goes unpaid, the IRS will send you a Notice of Intent to Levy. If they do not hear from you after 30 days, they may proceed with the levy. The IRS is known to levy bank accounts, wages, and more. Wage levies, also called wage garnishments, are when the IRS takes some of your paycheck to put toward your unpaid tax bill. The amount they levy will depend on your filing status and number of dependents.
The IRS may also levy your bank account. If your tax balance is greater than your bank account balance, they are authorized to levy the entire account. The same goes for joint bank accounts that you have access to. If you own a small business, or do contract work, the IRS can levy these earnings. If you file your taxes and are due a tax refund, the IRS will keep the refund and apply it to your unpaid tax bill. The IRS will stop levying if you arrange a payment agreement or if you pay your tax bill in full.
The IRS will charge you penalties and interest.
Your tax bill doesn’t end with your unpaid taxes. The IRS will charge you interest until the balance is paid in full. The current rate for underpayment is 7% annually, at least through June 2023. On top of that interest, the IRS will charge a failure-to-pay penalty on your unpaid taxes. The current rate is about 0.5% per month or partial month the balance remains unpaid, for a maximum of 25% of your unpaid tax. The amount is increased to 1% per month or partial month if you do not pay within 10 days of receiving an IRS Notice of Intent to Levy. However, if you set up a payment plan with the IRS, the rate drops to 0.25% per month or partial month.
You may lose traveling privileges.
Under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the IRS requires your Department of State to deny passport applications and renewals submitted by taxpayers with tax bills of $52,000 or more. The State may also revoke your valid passport or limit your ability to travel outside the U.S.
How Can I Get Relief from My Tax Debt?
Clearly, the risks of owing the IRS are extreme and affect all facets of life. If you’ve been ignoring IRS notices coming through your mail, it may not be long before these risks apply to you. Ignoring your tax issues will certainly not make them disappear. Your best bet is to find a way to work with the IRS to see what your options for repayment are. We know how stressful this process can be, but Optima is here to help you with all of your tax issues.