Federal Tax Lien

The federal tax lien is at the heart of all enforced collection action taken by the IRS Collection Division. Accordingly, representing clients requires an understanding of how the lien arises, the kinds of property to which it attaches, the consequences of such attachment, the duration of the lien, the priority of the tax lien over the interests of other claimants to the taxpayer’s property, and the circumstances under which the IRS will removed or subordinate the lien. This is the first of a two-part article which will introduce these essential topics.

The very first big guns the IRS uses when dealing with uncooperative taxpayers who owe back taxes is the federal tax lien. That’s when the rubber hits the pavement for the IRS and you need to pay attention. People delay handling their tax problems because they fear the IRS and that is certainly an understandable fear. However, the best way to deal with the IRS is to actually deal with them. Even the smallest communication will help your case. When you don’t respond to those letters and phone calls, bad things can happen and the federal tax lien is the shot across the bow.

Certificate of release of federal tax lien

In order to have the record of a lien released a taxpayer must obtain a Certificate of Release of Federal Tax Lien. Generally, the IRS will not issue a certificate of release of lien until the tax has either been paid in full or the IRS no longer has a legal interest in collecting the tax. The IRS has standardized procedures for lien releases, discharges and subordination. In situations that qualify for the removal of a lien, the IRS will generally remove the lien within 30 days and the taxpayer may receive a copy of the Certificate of Release of Federal Tax Lien. The current form of the Notice of Federal Tax Lien utilized by the IRS contains a provision that provides that the NFTL is released by its own terms at the conclusion of the statute of limitations period described above provided that the NFTL has not been refiled by the date indicated on the form. The effect of this provision is that the NFTL operates as a Certificate of Release of Federal Tax Lien on the day after the date indicated in the form by its own terms.

Bank Levy

A bank levy essentially funnels the money in your bank account(s) to the IRS. When the IRS serves a levy to your financial institution, all of the money in your account(s) at that moment, up to the amount that you owe in tax debt, is removed by the bank. Leaving you little or nothing, the bank must send this money to the IRS. Even the interest earned during the transition time must be sent.

There are several reasons why your lien may be withdrawn. If IRS procedures are not followed in filing the lien, or if the lien was filed too early, it can be withdrawn. Your lien may also be withdrawn if you contacted the IRS upon notice of the lien and agreed to pay the debt in set installments. Furthermore, if a Taxpayer Advocate believes that withdrawing the lien is in your best interest, the IRS will withdraw it.

The best ways to get rid of a federal tax lien is to make a deal and pay it off. However, this doesn’t mean you should run with your tail between your legs to the closest IRS office with a check. As a taxpayer, you have rights and you are tasked to hold the IRS accountable for every penny they say you owe. Remember, the IRS makes mistakes too and it has happened where they did not have the right to place liens on property. The best thing you can do is consult a tax professional to help you.

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