IRS Wage Garnishment

The IRS often chooses to use a wage garnishment to compel taxpayers to pay their back-tax debt. Wage levies certainly offer a direct avenue to repayment with minimal use of IRS resources. However, levies are a hardship for those who live paycheck-to-paycheck or prefer privacy at work. Because wage levies can be stressful, we’ve developed the following crash course on the basics of an IRS wage garnishment.

What is a Wage Garnishment?

The IRS defines a wage levy, as “the legal seizure of your property to satisfy a tax debt.” Taxpayers are rarely surprised by a wage levy, also known as a wage garnishment. Before the IRS notifies an employer of an individual’s back-tax liability, they try to collect the debt from you directly. First, they send a Notice and Demand for Payment to the address on the taxpayer’s file.

This includes a payment deadline and payment instructions. If they don’t receive payment by the deadline, the IRS will send another notice to the same address. The notice says Final Notice of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your Right to A Hearing at the top. It may arrive via certified U.S. Mail with return receipt or the IRS may deliver it to your home or work address in person.

This levy notice isn’t limited to just wage garnishments. The IRS may also notify the taxpayer that a levy is imminent on other assets. These could include funds in a checking or savings account, retirement account, investment account and much more.

Wage Levy vs. Lien

The IRS uses a levy and a lien to accomplish the same goal, but they’re separate procedures. A levy, as mentioned above, is a legal seizure of your property to satisfy a tax debt. A lien, in contrast, is “a legal claim against your property to secure payment of your tax debt.” In other words, a levy takes your property from you, while a lien claims an interest in the property.

Having a levy on your assets, such as wages or a checking account, means that the IRS can literally take them from you. A lien is different in that your assets are not immediately taken from you. It lets your creditors know that any further financial transactions must consider the taxpayer’s back-tax debt.

For example, consider a taxpayer with income from an employer, a savings account, a home, and a car. A levy on her income and her savings account means that money is confiscated by the IRS. Once they have it, they apply it to your back-tax debt. Subsequently, they keep the levy in place until you pay the back-tax debt in full. A lien notifies the banks that hold the mortgage and car note that future transactions must include a remedy for the debt.

What to Expect from a Wage Garnishment

How much will the IRS take from my check? Will they take my bonus? How long will the wage levy be in place? These important questions and many more plague taxpayers who receive a notice of levy from the IRS.

First things first; the IRS only requires your employer to withhold part of your wages. Rest assured that you will continue to receive much of your monthly wages. However, the IRS will keep the garnishment in place until the back-tax debt is paid off completely. They may release the levy if other payment arrangements are made, as well.

Part of your wages is off-limits, and your employer receives instructions for determining how much to withhold from your paychecks every month. The IRS instructs them to determine the amount to withhold by providing you with a form to complete. This is called a Statement of Dependents and Filing Status, and it you must complete it within three days.

It chiefly asks for information about the dependents you claim for the year in which the IRS issued the levy. If you don’t return the statement to your employer within three days, the IRS instructs them to calculate withholdings as if you’re married and filing separately with no dependents. This allows you to pay for your basic needs, such as food and rent, as well as those of your dependents.

A Note About Additional Income Sources

If you have other sources of income, the IRS “may allocate the exemptions to the other income source and levy 100% of the income from a particular employer.” The amount that the tax code exempts from withholdings applies to all your income sources combined. Any income you earn outside the exempted amount is sent to the IRS. That extra bonus you might’ve been looking forward to before the levy, So, the IRS will apply that extra bonus you might’ve excited about to your back-tax debt.

Obtaining the Release of a Wage Levy

The IRS certainly prefers that every taxpayer make their tax payments in full and on time. But we don’t live in a perfect world and this isn’t a realistic option for many people. If a wage levy creates a significant and immediate financial hardship, the IRS may reconsider the levy.

Speaking with the IRS can be tricky. They can, and do, use everything you say against you, especially if you have back-tax debt. But you need to communicate with them to resolve a back-tax issue. Consider hiring a seasoned tax relief professional to examine your case and speak with the IRS on your behalf. This helps to safeguard your financial health as much as possible.

If the IRS denies your request to release the levy due to an immediate economic hardship, you may file an appeal. Additionally, you may even request to have your wages returned to you, if applicable. The IRS will release the levy if one of the following applies to you:

  • You pay the past due balance in its entirety,
  • The statute for limitations for collections has expired,
  • The levy is hindering you from paying your taxes,
  • You establish alternative payment arrangements with the IRS, or
  • The levy prevents the taxpayer from obtaining basic needs.

The IRS notes that “the release of a levy does not mean you don’t have to pay the balance due.” You’re still required to pay the balance, even if the IRS does release the levy. Accordingly, you must make other arrangements to pay the balance down. Furthermore, the IRS can reissue the levy if you’re not making satisfactory progress on paying the debt in a timely manner.

Avoiding a Wage Levy

Avoiding a levy is simple, although not always easy: file returns and pay your taxes on time. Generally, you may file for an extension if you need more time to prepare your returns. But they should be filed by the deadline with, or without, the full tax payment to avoid costly penalties and interest.

Getting Help With a Wage Garnishment

Understanding the intricacies of IRS procedures is key when striving for the best possible outcome for the release of a wage levy. We’ve been working with the IRS for over 35 years. Consequently, we have a keen understanding of what they’re looking for. Let us communicate with the IRS on your behalf.

As your representative, we’ll take over all communications with the IRS. Not only will we work to have the IRS release the levy, but we’ll negotiate to reduce the overall balance. We’ll also set up a payment plan with affordable monthly installments as a means to an end to your back-tax stress.

Give us a call today at 800.518.8964. We’ll happily discuss your case and determine the best avenue toward resolution in a free phone consultation. Call us today and you’ll certainly sleep better tonight with the knowledge and expertise of accredited professionals working to bring you into compliance with the IRS once and for all.


[1] How Do I Avoid a Levy | Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.). Retrieved from //www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/how-do-i-avoid-a-levy

[2] How Do I Get a Levy Released | Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.). Retrieved from //www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/how-do-i-get-a-levy-released

[3] Information About Wage Levies. (n.d.). Retrieved from //www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/information-about-wage-levies

[4] Levy. (n.d.). Retrieved from //www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/levy

[5] What if a levy on my wages is causing a hardship? (n.d.). Retrieved from //www.irs.gov/newsroom/what-if-a-levy-on-my-wages-is-causing-a-hardship

[6] What is a Levy | Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.). Retrieved from //www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/what-is-a-levy

[7] Whats the Difference Between a Levy and a Lien | Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.). Retrieved from //www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/whats-the-difference-between-a-levy-and-a-lien

[8] Stop Them from Taking a Bite Out of Your Wages //taxreliefprofessional.com/irs-wage-garnishment-release

Image result for blue check mark Individual Tax Prep

Image result for blue check mark Business Tax Prep

Image result for blue check mark Business Tax Projections

Image result for blue check mark Tax Consulting

Image result for blue check mark Understanding Tax Laws

Image result for blue check mark Payroll Services

Image result for blue check mark Bookkeeping Services

Image result for blue check mark Tax Planning for Corporations, Partnerships & LLC's

Walter Wotman, CPA

Founder & Managing Partner

Walter Wotman's Tax Champions authored this helpful Guide to IRS Tax Resolution for American taxpayers. He is one of America's most experienced tax negotiators with over 35 years of experience helping thousands of clients settle difficult back tax issues.

Get Help Now (805)-639-0841

Copyright Tax Champions 2017