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How IRS Collections Works - Part Two

IRS Collections Step Three – You Receive a Notice of Intent to Levy (CP 504)

After this sixteen week time period, the taxpayer’s account has entered into IRS collections status. As such, they will receive a threatening letter notifying them of the government’s intent to seize their property if they do not pay their outstanding balance in full or they do not enter into a suitable payment arrangement. This letter will be sent by certified mail to the last known address of the taxpayer. However, in some instances where the taxpayer has a large balance due to the IRS, the IRS may skip the prior Notices of Balance due and jump straight to the Notice of Intent to Levy. This is done to compel action on the part of the taxpayer to resolve the account.

This Notice of Intent to Levy is an important step because it satisfies the initial requirement of the government to notify the taxpayer before it begins to seize their assets. I want to point out that there is no actual requirement that the taxpayer receive the notice in order for it to be valid. Under statute, so long as the government mails the notice to the taxpayer’s last known address (usually the address on the taxpayer’s last return filed), then it is satisfied its legal obligation. However, until this occurs, the IRS is barred from using lien or levy action against a taxpayer to collect any unpaid amounts. See IRC 6303. Now usually the IRS will not take any collection action against the taxpayer prior to issuing this notice and usually the taxpayer’s collection matter is transferred over to Automated Collection Systems (see step 5) prior to this happening. That said, I have run across instance where an administrative defect or other circumstances can cause a levy to be issued erroneously. If you believe that a levy has been issued erroneously, it is a good idea to have a tax attorney do a compliance check to make sure proper protocol was followed. This is also the time that you need to start taking action to resolve your liability, as things will start to go from bad to worse.

IRS Collections Step Four – You Receive Notice of a Federal Tax Lien Being Filed

Steps four, five, and six are generally interchangeable. After a Notice of Intent to Levy has gone out, your account will likely be sent to Automated Collection Systems. However, adverse collection action can also be taken from the service center where the return was processed as well. Sometimes, but not always, you will receive a Notice of Federal Tax Lien in the mail after the first Notice of Intent to Levy has been issued. As stated, a lien filing against you is not necessarily automatic and does not necessarily occur at this stage in the process, but the IRS frequently files federal tax liens against the taxpayer in order to secure their interests in any property that the taxpayer may be holding.

A lien is a security interest granted over a person’s property in order to ensure the payment of their tax liability. Typically, when a taxpayer goes to sell that property, such as with a house, the payment of a lien takes priority over any funds that would be distributed to the seller. Liens also can damage your credit score, impede your ability to borrow funds, and are a matter of public record (meaning anyone can see if a lien has been filed against you.

It is critical to note that a lien attaches to all property that the taxpayer has, both real and personal, including property that is acquired after the lien is filed. Under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) §6322, the lien is effective from the date that the tax is assessed. Thus, if the tax is assessed on April 15th when the return is filed and the lien is filed on November 15th, the lien’s priority date begins on April 15th. Liens will remain on the property until the tax has been paid in full, abated by the IRS (such as through an Offer in Compromise), or when the collection statute of limitations has expired (typically ten years from the date of the assessment).

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