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What Assets Can The IRS Seize?

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Alisson Ward

Tax Professional | Content Writer

Protect Assets from IRS

Navigating tax debt can be a source of frustration and concern. Questions about whether the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) possesses the authority to seize your assets when tax liabilities loom can add to this stress. In this article, we will explore the circumstances under which the IRS can legitimately take possession of your assets to settle a tax debt and when such actions may not be warranted.

Can The IRS Seize My Assets?

In straightforward terms, yes, the IRS possesses the legal capacity to seize your assets to satisfy a tax debt. It is important to note, however, that the IRS typically considers asset seizure as a last resort. They prefer to engage in negotiations with taxpayers to explore alternative solutions, such as installment agreements or offers in compromise. Furthermore, the IRS makes diligent efforts to alert you to the potential of asset seizures. Only after these attempts and a final warning will the IRS proceed to seize assets.

Which Assets Can The IRS Seize?

The IRS can lay claim to nearly any item of value that can be liquidated for cash. Some examples of assets susceptible to seizure include:

  1. Property: The IRS can establish a lien on your property, including your home or other real estate, as a legal claim to recover the debt. In certain situations, they may proceed to seize and sell the property to settle the outstanding taxes.

  2. Vehicles and Personal Assets: To offset your tax liability, the IRS may confiscate and auction off your vehicles, boats, jewelry, and other personal assets.

  3. Bank Accounts: The IRS holds the authority to levy funds from your bank accounts to satisfy your tax debt. These bank levies are one-time occurrences, meaning the IRS can only seize the funds available at the time. You can continue to deposit and withdraw funds from the account thereafter, but the IRS may issue additional levies in the future.

  4. Retirement Accounts: Surprisingly, the IRS has the legal power to seize your 401(k) and other retirement savings, including self-employed plans. Despite these accounts typically being protected from creditors, the IRS can tap into them to recover delinquent taxes.

  5. Life Insurance: In specific instances, the IRS can even seize life insurance benefits. If you are the beneficiary of a life insurance policy and have an outstanding IRS debt, they can intercept those proceeds. Additionally, if you hold a life insurance policy without a designated beneficiary and owe the IRS, they can lay claim to the policy funds before distribution to your heirs.

  6. Wages: Through wage garnishment, the IRS can instruct your employer to withhold a portion of your salary to settle your tax debt legally.

Which Assets Are Safe from IRS Seizure?

Generally, assets deemed essential for your well-being and that of your family’s shelter and survival are protected from confiscation by the IRS. These may include:

  • Unemployment benefits
  • Worker’s compensation benefits
  • Tools required for your employment
  • Household furnishings valued below a certain threshold
  • Certain disability payments
  • Court-mandated child support payments
  • Some pension or annuity benefits
  • Personal clothing and textbooks
  • Aid provided under the Job Training Partnership Act

How Can I Shield My Assets From The IRS?

The reassuring news is that an IRS asset seizure is never an unexpected occurrence. Once you are aware of your IRS tax obligation, it’s essential to take prompt action to address the issue. However, we understand that circumstances might not always permit immediate action. You may have already received multiple IRS notifications, possibly including an "Intent to Levy" notice. In such situations, it’s not too late to seek assistance from a reputable tax resolution firm with a proven track record. Priority Tax Relief, with years of experience, specializes in assisting taxpayers facing challenging tax scenarios, offering a lifeline when you need it most.


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