A federal tax lien is the government’s legal claim against your property when you neglect or fail to pay a tax debt. The lien protects the government’s interest in all your property, including real estate, personal property and financial assets. A federal tax lien exists after:
- Puts your balance due on the books (assesses your liability);
- Sends you a bill that explains how much you owe (Notice and Demand for Payment); and
- Neglect or refuse to fully pay the debt in time.
The IRS files a public document, the Notice of Federal Tax Lien, to alert creditors that the government has a legal right to your property.
How to Get Rid of a Lien
Paying your tax debt – in full – is the best way to get rid of a federal tax lien. The IRS releases your lien within 30 days after you have paid your tax debt.
When conditions are in the best interest of both the government and the taxpayer, other options for reducing the impact of a lien exist.
Discharge of property
A "discharge" removes the lien from specific property. There are several Internal Revenue Code (IRC) provisions that determine eligibility.
"Subordination" does not remove the lien, but allows other creditors to move ahead of the IRS, which may make it easier to get a loan or mortgage.
A "withdrawal" removes the public Notice of Federal Tax Lien as if the lien was never filed and assures that the IRS is not competing with other creditors for your property; however, you are still liable for the amount due.
Two additional Withdrawal options resulted from the Commissioner’s 2011 Fresh Start initiative.
One option may allow withdrawal of your Notice of Federal Tax Lien after the lien’s release. General eligibility includes:
Your tax liability has been satisfied and your lien has been released; and also:
- You are in compliance for the past three years in filing - all individual returns, business returns, and information returns;
- You are current on your estimated tax payments and federal tax deposits, as applicable.
The other option may allow withdrawal of your Notice of Federal Tax Lien if you have entered in or converted your regular installment agreement to a Direct Debit installment agreement. General eligibility includes:
- You are a qualifying taxpayer (i.e. individuals, businesses with income tax liability only, and out of business entities with any type of tax debt)
- You owe $25,000 or less (If you owe more than $25,000, you may pay down the balance to $25,000 prior to requesting withdrawal of the Notice of Federal Tax Lien)
- Your Direct Debit Installment Agreement must full pay the amount you owe within 60 months or before the Collection Statute expires, whichever is earlier
- You are in full compliance with other filing and payment requirements
- You have made three consecutive direct debit payments
- You can’t have defaulted on your current, or any previous, Direct Debit Installment agreement.
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