How to Tell If You Have an IRS Lien

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If you've never had a tax lien, consider yourself lucky. A lien is what Uncle Sam can do when you don't pay your taxes. Federal law lets the Internal Revenue Service put a lien on all of your assets (including wages and a bank account) until you pay any taxes due. First you'll get a notice from the IRS, but that doesn't necessarily mean a lien has been filed against you---yet.

  • Look for a letter that says "Demand for Payment." It will explain your tax liability. Legally, the IRS can file a lien against you if you haven't paid your bill within 10 days.

  • Look for an official notice from the IRS that says a tax lien has been filed. The IRS must send this notice out no less than five days after it has placed a lien on your assets.

  • Contact the IRS. If possible, go to your local IRS office to discuss your account. If you have a lien or are at risk of getting one, you might be able to make installment payments or even negotiate a settlement for a lower amount.

  • Contact a taxpayer advocate's office (see Resource). Taxpayer advocates help people with questions regarding the IRS. While they work for the IRS, they can sometimes answer questions about a lien faster than the IRS caseworker assigned to your account.

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