How far can the IRS go in collecting back taxes?

Asked over 3 years ago - New York, NY

I have a tax debt -- I am not asking to eliminate it -- I expect to pay it if I ever get a job. What I am asking is how far can the IRS go before that? Can they take the chair I am sitting on? My laptop? The food off the table? I am afraid to use a bank because I don't know if they can take my money if I have any. If I get a job I will need to pay my bills and eat but can the IRS just take my salary even if I need the money to live? It is especially hard to be harassed by the IRS as an unemployed, single parent who lives day-to-day. Ironically the IRS is hassling me particularly because, they say, they don't know how I can get by on SO LITTLE and they don't believe it! Obviously I cannot afford a lawyer!!

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Steven J. Fromm

    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . As far as collecting back taxes, the IRS lien usually lasts for 10 years. If there was no return filed for a tax year, the statute of limitations never begins to run, so the IRS can go back to this year at any time. As far as contents of the home, they usually are not interested in these items. If you get a job, they will try to garnish your wages. As far as you getting buy, the truth is the truth and you merely have to show your lack of assets and the debts you have.

    Hope this helps. If you think this post was helpful, please check the thumbs up (helpful) tab below and/or designate my answer as best answer. Thanks.
    Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States. His phone number is 215-735-2336 or his email address is . For further tax advice check out his website at . and his blog at <>

    LEGAL DISCLAIMER Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia... more
  2. David Guy Carter

    Contributor Level 10

    Answered . The IRS has 3 years to audit your returns, but the audited returns can "open the door" to a review of prior years. The collection period is 10 years. If you are unemployed and insolvent right now, it may be time to file for an offer in compromise of your tax debt. This could result in lower payments and a payment plan you can manage.

    This information is provided for general discussion purposes only. Nothing contained herein constitutes legal... more
  3. Henry Daniel Lively

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . The statute of limitations for collection of a tax debt is 10 years. To eliminate the enforced collection procedures by the IRS you can make an offer in compromise to pay an amount less than you owe based on your current financial situation, or you could ask them to put you on un-collectible status. It is better to work out a plan, rather than have them enforce collection.

    Any individual seeking legal advice for their own situation should retain their own legal counsel as this response... more

Can't find what you're looking for? Ask a Lawyer

Get free answers from experienced attorneys.


Ask now

25,474 answers this week

3,218 attorneys answering

Ask a Lawyer

Get answers from top-rated lawyers.

  • It's FREE
  • It's easy
  • It's anonymous

25,474 answers this week

3,218 attorneys answering