In the context of the IRS, tax levy refers to the legal authority granted to the IRS to seize a taxpayer’s property or assets to satisfy an outstanding tax debt. The purpose of tax levy is to enforce tax compliance and collect unpaid taxes when other methods of collection have been unsuccessful. It serves as a final step in the collection process, compelling taxpayers to fulfill their tax obligations.

Types of Taxes Subject to Levy:

Under IRS rules, various types of taxes can be subject to levy, including federal income tax, employment tax, trust fund recovery penalty, and some other specified taxes. Each type of tax has its own set of rules and procedures regarding tax levy, as outlined by the IRS.

How Does Tax Levy Work According to IRS Rules?

Tax Assessment:

Before initiating a tax levy, the IRS assesses the taxpayer’s liability by reviewing their tax returns or making a substitute return on their behalf if they have failed to file. The IRS determines the amount owed based on applicable tax laws and regulations.

Notice of Intent to Levy:

Under IRS rules, the taxpayer is first issued a Notice of Intent to Levy (Letter 1058) to inform them of the impending tax levy. This notice serves as a final warning and provides the taxpayer with an opportunity to resolve the tax debt through payment, negotiation, or appealing the decision.

Final Notice of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your Right to a Hearing:

If the taxpayer does not respond or fails to resolve the tax debt after receiving the initial notice, the IRS issues a Final Notice of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your Right to a Hearing (Letter 11 or CP90). This notice states the amount owed and provides the taxpayer with a final chance to address the debt before the IRS proceeds with the levy.

Issuance of Levy:

If the taxpayer does not respond to the final notice or request a hearing within the specified time-frame, the IRS can proceed with the levy. The IRS can issue a levy on various assets, including bank accounts, wages, social security benefits, retirement accounts, and other property with value. The levy is a legal document that authorizes the IRS to seize and apply the proceeds from the seized assets toward the outstanding tax debt.

Asset Seizure and Sale:

Once the levy is issued, the IRS can seize the taxpayer’s assets and sell them to satisfy the tax debt. The seized assets may be sold through public auctions or private sales. The proceeds from the sale are then applied towards the outstanding tax debt, including any associated penalties and interest.

Implications of Tax Levy According to IRS Rules

Financial Consequences:

Under IRS rules, a tax levy can have significant financial consequences for taxpayers. The loss of assets, such as bank funds or property, can severely impact an individual’s financial stability. It is important to address tax debts promptly to avoid reaching the stage of asset seizure and sale.

Credit Score and Reputation:

Unresolved tax levies can negatively impact a taxpayer’s credit score and reputation. The IRS may file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien, which becomes a matter of public record and can affect the taxpayer’s ability to obtain credit, loans, or favorable financial terms in the future.

Appeal and Resolution Options:

Under IRS rules, taxpayers have the right to appeal a tax levy and explore resolution options. This includes requesting a Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing to challenge the levy or proposing alternative resolution methods such as installment agreements, offers in compromise, or requesting Currently Not Collectible status.

Examples of Tax Levies According to the IRS

Bank Account Levy:

In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has the authority to levy a taxpayer’s bank account to collect unpaid taxes. When a taxpayer fails to resolve their tax debt, the IRS can issue a bank levy, which freezes the funds in the taxpayer’s bank account and allows the IRS to seize the necessary amount to satisfy the outstanding tax liability.

For example, let’s say Mary owes a significant amount of federal income taxes and has ignored multiple notices and warnings from the IRS. In this situation, the IRS may issue a bank levy, causing Mary’s bank to freeze her account. The IRS will then proceed to withdraw funds from her account, up to the amount owed, to fulfill the outstanding tax debt. Mary will be notified of the levy and given an opportunity to address the issue before the funds are permanently seized.

Wage Garnishment:

The IRS can also initiate wage garnishment to collect unpaid taxes from a taxpayer’s earnings. With a court order, the IRS can require an employer to withhold a portion of the taxpayer’s wages and send it directly to the IRS until the tax debt is satisfied.

For instance, consider John, who has a substantial tax debt and has neglected to make arrangements for payment. In such cases, the IRS may obtain a court order for wage garnishment. John’s employer will then be legally obligated to withhold a certain percentage of his wages and remit it to the IRS until the tax debt is fully paid off. The garnishment amount is determined by a formula outlined in IRS guidelines, considering factors such as the taxpayer’s filing status, dependents, and deductible expenses.

Property Seizure and Sale:

In situations where a taxpayer fails to pay their tax debt, the IRS has the authority to seize and sell their property to satisfy the outstanding liability. This can include real estate, vehicles, business assets, or any other valuable property owned by the taxpayer.

For example, let’s say Sarah has accumulated substantial unpaid taxes and has not responded to IRS notices or made any effort to address the debt. In such cases, the IRS may initiate a tax levy by seizing Sarah’s property and selling it at a public auction. The proceeds from the sale will be used to pay off the outstanding tax debt, and if there is any surplus, it may be returned to Sarah.

How to Avoid a Levy According to IRS Rules

Timely Filing and Payment:

One of the most effective ways to avoid a tax levy is to ensure timely filing and payment of your taxes. By filing your tax returns on time and paying the full amount owed, you can prevent the accumulation of tax debt and minimize the risk of facing a levy. Establish a system to track your tax obligations and set aside funds to fulfill your tax liabilities promptly.

Communication with the IRS:

Maintaining open and proactive communication with the IRS is crucial to avoid a tax levy. If you are unable to pay your tax bill in full, contact the IRS as soon as possible to discuss your situation. The IRS offers various payment options, including installment agreements and temporary deferrals, based on your financial circumstances. By demonstrating your willingness to resolve your tax debt, you increase the likelihood of reaching a mutually acceptable arrangement with the IRS.

Offer in Compromise:

In certain situations, taxpayers may qualify for an Offer in Compromise (OIC), which allows them to settle their tax debt for less than the full amount owed. An OIC is an option for individuals facing significant financial hardship or those with doubts about their ability to pay the full tax debt. Consult the IRS website or seek professional advice to determine if you meet the eligibility criteria for an OIC.

Requesting Currently Not Collectible Status:

If you are experiencing severe financial hardship and are unable to pay your tax debt, you may be eligible for Currently Not Collectible (CNC) status. This status temporarily suspends IRS collection efforts until your financial situation improves. To request CNC status, you must provide detailed financial information to demonstrate your inability to pay without causing undue hardship. The IRS will review your case and determine whether to grant CNC status.

Seeking Professional Assistance:

When dealing with complex tax situations or significant tax debts, it is advisable to seek professional assistance from tax attorneys, enrolled agents, or certified public accountants. These professionals have expertise in tax matters and can provide guidance on resolving tax issues, negotiating with the IRS, and representing you in discussions or hearings related to a potential tax levy.


Tax levy is a powerful tool utilized by the IRS to collect unpaid taxes and enforce tax compliance. Understanding tax levy according to the rules and regulations set forth by the IRS is crucial for taxpayers to navigate their tax obligations effectively. In this comprehensive guide, we have explored the concept of tax levy, its process, implications, and ways to avoid it.

In conclusion, a tax levy is a powerful tool utilized by tax authorities to collect overdue taxes from taxpayers. Understanding the concept of tax levy is crucial to navigate the taxation landscape and avoid the severe consequences of unresolved tax debts. By taking prompt action, communicating with tax authorities, and seeking professional assistance if necessary, individuals and businesses can mitigate the risks associated with tax levy and maintain their financial well-being. Stay informed, stay compliant, and ensure that your tax obligations are met to avoid the complications of a tax levy.