If you don't pay the IRS as fast as they want, can they levy or seize your Social Security check? There is good news and bad news. The bad news is yes, the IRS can levy on your Social Security check. The good news is that they can take "only" 15% of it. The rest you get to keep, at least under the Federal Payment Levy program. The official IRS website explains it like this:

Through the Federal Payment Levy Program (FPLP), Social Security benefit payments outlined in Title II of the Social Security Act, Federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Benefits, are subject to the 15-percent levy, to pay your delinquent tax debt. However, benefit payments, such as lump sum death benefits and benefits paid to children, will not be included in the FPLP. Additionally, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, under Title XVI, and payments with partial withholding to repay a debt owed to Social Security will not be levied through the FPLP. Before your Social Security benefits are included in the FPLP, we will send you a final notice of our intent to levy, with appeal rights, if one has not already been issued. If we don't hear from you, or if you have already received this notice, we will send you an additional notice CP 91 or CP 298, Final Notice Before Levy on Social Security Benefits, explaining that your Social Security benefits may be levied. See Tax Information for Appeals for additional information about your appeal rights. You have 30 days from the date of this notice to make arrangements to pay your tax debt before we begin deducting 15 percent from your monthly benefit. See Topic 201, The Collection ProcessPublication 594, The IRS Collection Process, and Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer, for additional information. Because the FPLP is used to satisfy tax debts, the IRS may levy your Social Security benefits regardless of the amount. This is different from the 1996 Debt Collection Improvement Act which states that the first $750 of monthly Social Security benefits is off limits to satisfy non-tax debts. Fifteen percent of the Social Security benefit will be levied through the FPLP regardless of whether or not the remaining benefit sent to you is less than $750.

With a Manual (non-FPLP) levy, there is no 15% restriction. They can take your entire check, but they must take into account money for your reasonable living expenses.

So, it's not all bad news. But if you want to deal with the IRS head-on, income taxes can be discharged in bankruptcy, so long as they (1) are more than 3 years old measured from the due date of the return (2) you filed the tax returns more than 2 years before filing bankruptcy; and (3) the taxes have not been "assessed" or determined to be due, within 240 days before filing bankruptcy.

You also cannot have filed a false or fraudulent tax return, or willfully attempted to evade or defeat the tax (you cannot be a crook, tax evader or tax protester and qualify for bankruptcy discharge of your taxes). Or if the taxes are not old enough to discharge in bankruptcy, or if you don't qualify for some other reason (too much income) it is possible to use Chapter 13 bankruptcy and pay the taxes back, usually without interest, over a plan of up to 5 years in length.

Meanwhile the IRS cannot levy on your pay, bank accounts, or other property; they have to leave you in peace. If you live in the Houston Texas area or surrounding counties, you can come in for a free consultation with me to discuss your options. Call my main number at 713-772-8037, or you can make an appointment on the home page of this website.

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