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How far can the IRS go in collecting back taxes?

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!!

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Attorney answers 3


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.

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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 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 , his website is and his blog is <> Mr. Fromm is ethically required to state that the response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. Also, there are no recognized legal specialties under Pennsylvania law. Any references to a trust, estate or tax lawyer refer only to the fact that Mr. Fromm limits his practice to these areas of the law. These responses are only in the form of legal education and are intended to only provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that if known could significantly change the reply or make such reply unsuitable. Mr. Fromm strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to ensure proper advice is received. By using this site you understand and agree that there is no attorney client relationship or confidentiality between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction, who is familiar with your specific facts and all of the circumstances and with whom you have an attorney client relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question or omitted from the question. Circular 230 Disclaimer - Any information in this comment may not be used to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency.


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 advice, and no attorney-client relationship has been formed by the provision of this response. You should always contact an attorney in your area regarding local legal issues.


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 provides information that is general in nature and not specific to any person's unique situation. Circular 230 Disclaimer - Advice given in this response cannot be used to eliminate penalties with the IRS or any other governmental agency.



Telling the truth to the IRS is not enough -- they don't believe it.



Sorry this was supposed to go to Mr. Fromm. I can't make an offer in compromise because they won't accept $0 and that's all I've got.

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