Understanding a Federal Tax Lien
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 the IRS:
- Assesses your liability;
- Sends you a bill that explains how much you owe (Notice and Demand for Payment); and
- You 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.
Options: 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 — Allows property to be sold free of the lien.
- 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.
- Withdrawal — Removes the public notice and assures that the IRS is not competing with other creditors for your property.
How a Lien Affects You
- Assets — A lien attaches to all of your assets (such as property, securities, vehicles) and to future assets acquired during the duration of the lien.
- Credit — Once the IRS files a Notice of Federal Tax Lien, it may limit your ability to get credit.
- Business — The lien attaches to all business property and to all rights to business property, including accounts receivable.
- Bankruptcy — If you file for bankruptcy, your tax debt, lien, and Notice of Federal Tax Lien may continue after the bankruptcy.