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Published:   |   Last Updated: October 17, 2023

Levy/Seizure of Assets

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An IRS levy permits the legal seizure of your property to satisfy a tax debt. It can garnish wages, take money in your bank account(s) or other financial account(s), seize and sell your vehicle(s), real estate, and other personal property.

If you do not pay your taxes (or make arrangements to settle your debt), and the IRS determines that a levy is the next appropriate action, the IRS may levy any property or right to property you own or have an interest in. For instance, the IRS could levy property that is yours, but is held by someone else (such as your wages, retirement accounts, dividends, bank accounts, licenses, rental income, accounts receivables, the cash loan value of your life insurance, or commissions). Or the IRS could seize and sell property that you hold (such as your car, boat, or house).

This notice or letter may include additional topics that have not yet been covered here. Please check back frequently for updates.

What does this mean to me?

You have a balance on your account and the IRS has issued a levy or has conducted a seizure to satisfy your tax debt.  The term “levy” and “seizure” can be used interchangeably; however, the term “levy” is typically used when the IRS attaches to funds, while the term “seizure” is typically used when the IRS attaches to physical property.

Some levies have a “one-time” effect, where the IRS takes an asset all at once.

A levy on your bank account takes only what is in the account at the time your bank receives the levy. The IRS must issue another levy to capture additional funds at a later date.

Other levies have a “continuous” effect.  They remain in place until the IRS releases the levy or your debt is paid in full. Federal law allows the IRS to issue a continuous levy on salary and wages and certain federal payments.  Levies against your wages or social security income are generally continuous.

 

When a levy attaches to your salary, generally the levy only attaches to a portion of your paycheck, until the levy is released, or your balance is full paid. By law, a portion of your wages is exempt from levy based on your filing status, additional standard deduction, and dependents. There are some exceptions to this exemption, including when other income provides enough funds to meet the exempt levy amount.  To ensure the correct exemption amount is excluded from levy, your employer will ask you to complete a Statement of Exemptions and Filing status, Form 668-W, Part 3, to complete and return within three days. If you do not return the statement in three days, your exempt amount is figured as if you are married filing separately with no dependents. Your employer will use the information provided on the Form 668-W, as well as Publication 1494 to determine the amount that is exempt.  The exempt amount will be paid to you by your employer and the remaining amount will be sent to the IRS and applied to your tax balance.

The IRS can levy continuously on certain federal payments you receive, such as Social Security benefits. Under this program, the IRS can generally take up to 15 percent of your federal payments, or up to 100 percent of payments due to a vendor for goods or services sold or leased to the federal government. See What You Need to Know: The Federal Payment Levy Program for more information.

 

IRS may levy your state tax refunds, as well as payments owed by clients for services you or your business have provided or will provide.

The IRS may seize your real or personal property.  The IRS will determine the minimum amount it will accept for the sale, also known as the “minimum bid”.  You will be provided with a copy of the minimum bid and fair market value amounts, as well as a notice of sale.  IRS will advertise the sale to the public through various means, such as newspaper, flyer, or internet.  After giving public notice, the IRS will generally wait at least 10 days before selling your property. If there are funds left over from the sale after paying the costs associated with the seizure (including any liens or judgments that have a senior position to the IRS) and your tax debt, the IRS will tell you how to get a refund of the remaining funds.

How did I get here?

You have a balance on your tax account. A notice was sent to you previously letting you know how much you owe, when it was due, and how to pay. Since the IRS did not hear from you, it is continuing with its collection process by issuing a levy or conducting a seizure.

What are my next steps?

Contact the IRS:  After verifying the notice is from the IRS, call the number on the Notice of Levy or 1-800-829-1040.  Be prepared to discuss alternative ways to pay your taxes, which may include providing financial information for the IRS to review.

In certain situations, there can be relief from levy and/or seizure.  See Levy Relief for more information on the situations in which relief is available.  Please note that the term “levy” also means seizure when pertaining to levy relief.

Appeal:  If the funds or property are not yet in IRS possession, you can request an appeal through the Collection Appeal Program.  In addition, if you are still within the timeframe allowed, you can request a Collection Due Process Hearing or Equivalent Hearing.  See Publication 1660 for a full explanation of your appeal rights.

Redemption rights after seizure and sale of your real estate:  After your real estate is seized and sold, you or anyone with interest in the property, may redeem the real estate within 180 days after the sale.

To redeem your property after sale, you must pay the successful bidder the purchase price plus interest at the rate of 20% per year, compounded daily.  For more information on the process of redeeming your property, click here.

 

 

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If you still need help

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers and protects taxpayers’ rights. We can offer you help if your tax problem is causing a financial difficulty, you’ve tried and been unable to resolve your issue with the IRS, or you believe an IRS system, process, or procedure just isn’t working as it should. If you qualify for our assistance, which is always free, we will do everything possible to help you.

Visit www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov or call 1-877-777-4778.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) are independent from the IRS and TAS. LITCs represent individuals whose income is below a certain level and who need to resolve tax problems with the IRS. LITCs can represent taxpayers in audits, appeals, and tax collection disputes before the IRS and in court. In addition, LITCs can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language. Services are offered for free or a small fee. For more information or to find an LITC near you, see the LITC page on the TAS website or Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List.