IRS Levies and Social Security Benefits

The IRS can levy social security benefits. Even worse, that levy can continue even though the statute of limitations has expired. The question is how often does the IRS levy social security payments? And what can you do if it does?

The IRS annual statistics report does not drill down anywhere close to the level needed to answer the first question. But it does seem to be exceedingly rare and only applied to tax protestors. This is in alignment with IRM Use discretion in determining if retirement income should be levied“. And more specifically, IRM “Use discretion in determining whether a levy on Social Security benefits is appropriate under the circumstances.”

However rare, what can you do about it? If the levy was correctly applied before the statute of limitations runs, then the levy will continue after the expiration. The authority for this is Treas. Reg. § 301.6343-1(b)(1)(B)(ii) which provides that “a levy reaches all property rights at the time the levy is made, including the right to receive payments at some point in the future, and will not be released under this condition unless the liability is satisfied.” This regulation leaves you with only one option, you must make a deal. Specifically, an Offer-In-Compromise proving that the seizure of your retirement income places you in the category of “Economic Hardship”.

Economic hardship cases are usually hard to get through at the collections level. Expect a trip to Appeals.

Strategy 6 – Taxpayer Advocate Service

What do you do when you know the IRS is wrong and creating a financial hardship as a result? The cheapest answer is the Taxpayer Advocate Service also known as the TAS. You can file, an appropriately numbered form, Form 911 to explain the situation. A TAS representative will give you a call back within 48 hours to discuss your issues.

The TAS does require that you make every effort to resolve the situation before contacting them. This means you must have already done the following:

    1. Spoken with the Collection Division
    2. Spoken with the Group Manager
    3. Excised your appeals rights for a CDP or Equivalent Hearing
    4. Used the Collection Appeals Process

The best-case result from contacting the TAS is that they will cut through red tape and go straight to the right people. The worst-case result is that you will receive great advice on your options to proceed. This is an easy and worthwhile step when you can’t seem to get the IRS to recognize they are in error.

Strategy 3 – Prove that you are Currently Not Collectable

The previous posts talked about the strategies of making an offer-in-compromise and payment agreements. These strategies work for people who can either fully or partially pay their IRS debt. But what about people whose financial picture is so bleak that they cannot make any payments? Are they doomed to forever harassment by government agents?


The answer is no, all is not lost. The government does not want to waste their resources chasing people who cannot pay when they have lots of cases for big bucks in inventory just waiting to get worked. The catch here is that you must prove to them that you are in the first group and not the second.


The way this works is that you must provide information about your equity in things you own and your cash flow. The IRS will review this information to verify that it is adequate and correct. The numbers are then plugged into a formula known as the “Reasonable Collection Potential”. If the result shows that you have no excess cash to contribute to the Treasury, the IRS changes your status to Currently Not Collectable and you get a pass from collection actions for approximately 2 years.


Besides getting the IRS off your back for 2 years or more, there is another huge benefit of proving your Currently Not Collectable status. The 10-year Statute of Limitations continues to run. Get across the 10-year line and the debt is no longer collectable by the IRS.

Strategy 2 – Make a Payment Agreement

There are several strategies to consider when it comes to dealing with IRS debt. Making an online Payment Agreement to full-pay the debt over time is the easiest way to get the IRS off your back.

Online Payment Plan Basics
  • Individuals, including sole practitioners and independent contractors, have two choices.
    • Long-term payment plan – total tax, penalties, and interest is $50,000 or less.
    • Short-term payment plan – total tax, penalties, and interest is $100,000 or less and can be paid in 180 days or less
  • Business Payment Plan comes in only one flavor – the total liability must be $25,000 or less.
  • The wonderful thing about these plans is that you do not have to submit financial information.
  • Approval or disapproval will be almost instantaneous.
  • Go to
Paper Payment Plan Basics
  • These plans are a lot harder. You must submit financial information about assets that you own and your cash flow so that the IRS can determine what they think your monthly payments should be.
  • The IRS will suspend counting days on the 10-year Statute of Limitations while they consider the request. This process will probably add a minimum of six months to your time in purgatory.
  • The IRS will reluctantly accept payment plan requests that are less than full-pay provided your financial information supports the lower payment.
The Good and Bad of Payment Plans
  • IRS will suspend collection activities if the plan is approved.
  • A majority of payment agreements end up in default. The more plans that you default, the harder it gets to make future deals. The golden rule here is to call them if you can’t make your payments. Do not wait for them to call you.

Payment Agreements are great if you can afford to make payments. My next post will be about what to do when you cannot afford to pay anything.

Non-Filers and Refunds – The Medical Exception

Previously I detailed that there was a statute of limitations on when you could file a claim for refund and get credit for any overpayments. That limit is 3 years from the due date or 2 years from the date of payment whichever is later. There are exceptions to this law and one of those is for medical reasons.

Sometimes it’s not laziness that produces a non-filer situation. Medical problems can also result in non-filer status. Congress carved out an exception for this in the tax code and the IRS issued Rev. Proc. 99-21 to cover this situation. The statute of limitations is suspended when the taxpayer is determined to have a mental or physical impairment that can be expected to result in their death or last for a period of at least 12 months.

There are two major requirements to use this exception:

    1. No person was authorized to act on behalf of the taxpayer, including their spouse, during the disability period, and
    2. There must be a written statement from a qualified physician as to the disability. This statement must be detailed and specifically state that the taxpayer was prevented from managing his or her affairs.

There are lots of ways to get the physician’s statement wrong, so pay attention to Rev. Proc. 99-21 if you are going to use this exception.

Non-Filers and Refunds – You will be Sorry

Lots of Non-Filers are not out to rip off the IRS. They figure they have a refund, so the due date is not important to them. After all, the penalties for late filing are all based on the amount owed to the IRS. Late filing turns into a habit and many times that delay turns into years.

Here is the catch. You only have three years from the due date of the return to file and claim your refund. Once the three years are up, too bad. I know of cases where this has happened to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.  Many times, somebody will have a big year and find out they owe, but it is too late to use the prior year’s refunds to offset that liability.

Unless your intention is to make a voluntary contribution to the US Treasury, file the return. The IRS does not have the power to fix this, once the three years are gone.

Substitute for Return Basics

The IRS cannot assess a tax on you without a filed return. This puts them in a difficult spot. If the taxpayer does not file a return, what can they do to get a balance due on their books? The answer is the “Substitute for Return”. Basically, they file one for the taxpayer using the information on hand as to what the income was likely to be. This is where all those 1099s and W-2s come into play. Once the IRS computers have officially filed a Substitute for Return, tax due notices can start.

Here are a few things to understand about the Substitute for Return:

    • The IRS is not out to minimize your taxes. They will file the return using single or married filing separate along with the standard deduction. No credits, no additional deductions.
    • You can still file your return voluntarily and correct any errors in the tax accessed.
    • You are not required to file any additional returns if say the IRS calculations of the tax were lower than your own calculations.
    • The big disadvantage to not filing and letting the IRS do the work is that taxes due from an assessment from a Substitute for Return are never dischargeable in bankruptcy.
    • Finally, the IRS only files a Substitute for Return when they think there are taxes due. Non-filers who have a refund due will eventually lose that claim once the 3 years have run out.

Haven’t filed forever! How many years to catch up?

The IRS currently has identified some 7 million potential non-filer cases. Getting caught up with them before they lower the ax is something that a lot of these people would like to do. But how do you go about that?

Do you have to go back to the beginning of time if you haven’t filed in decades? The answer is No. IRS Policy Statement 5-133 defines ‘Compliance’ as having the last 6 years of tax returns filed. File the last 6 years and the IRS will let you come in from the cold.

Compliance is an important issue for the IRS. They do not want to make a deal with someone who is compounding his or her tax problems. No payment plan, no Offer-in-Compromise, no relief from collection activities if your current returns are not being filed and your current year taxes are not being paid.

If you or someone you know has received a Notice of Intent to Levy or some other federal or state tax issue, please feel free to contact me at either (352) 317-5692 or email

Are Crypto Currencies Safe from the IRS

I represent taxpayers in Gainesville and the state of Florida who has tax issues with the IRS.

IRS Levies

At this point in time, I don’t see how the IRS could levy a cryptocurrency account. The owner has the key codes. Absent these codes, it’s not likely the IRS could break the encryption. But there is a much bigger danger to crypto owners.

The Real Danger

That danger is JAIL TIME. Signing a tax return means you understand that the information is to the best of your knowledge under the penalty of perjury. The first question on the form 1040 for the last few years has been “did you receive, sell, exchange, or otherwise dispose of any financial interest in a virtual currency?” Answer no when you have one of these accounts makes it an easy referral for criminal prosecution when the IRS later determines that you do have such an account.

How it Works

The IRS successfully summoned the records of Coinbase for 2013-2015. The summons was upheld in court. Subsequently, the IRS has been negotiating with other virtual currency companies to gather more information about their users.

Here is the kicker to keep in mind. You sign a form 1040 in the current year and deny that you have any virtual currency. Three years later the IRS is finally able to crack the management of the company that provides you with access to your account. They feed the new data into their computers and then do a search for unreported transactions along with the negative answer on question number 1. Outcomes your name and the computer’s guess at the underreported tax. There is no statute of limitations on fraud. Worse, your defense attorney has next to nothing to work with other than some lame excuse about forgetfulness.

How Big a Risk?

Think this unlikely? The 2021 New England Tax Representation Conference included IRS statistics. Criminal referrals are up over 80% and most of that is related to the Coinbase summons. The idea that in the world of connected data servers that your information cannot be obtained by some government entity forever and ever is a pipe dream.

If you or someone you know has received a Notice of Intent to Levy or some other federal or state tax issue, please feel free to contact me at either (352) 317-5692 or email

Three Ways to Deal with IRS Debt

You owe the IRS a lot of money. What can you do to get your life back on track? Basically, it comes down one of three options:

  • Convince the IRS that you are not in a position to pay
  • Make a deal to make monthly payments over a period of time
  • Make an Offer-in-Compromise in that the IRS will take some smaller amount and write off the debt balance.

Figuring out which of these three doors is the best option for you depends on your situation as defined by an IRS formula called the Reasonable Collection Potential or RCP. The RCP takes your monthly income and offsets that with “allowable” expenses to determine your disposable income (i.e., what you could pay the IRS monthly). This is the base line amount for negotiations with the IRS.

If your RCP is zero, then the IRS will check a box on your file as “Uncollectable” and go away for 18 to 24 months. They will revisit the case every couple of years until the Statute of Limitations expires at which time, they will write-off the balance.

If your RCP is a positive number, all is not lost. You can to some extent arrange your financial affairs so as to minimize the RCP calculation. Making these payments regularly usually means that the IRS will leave you alone until the Statute of Limitations date gets close. If a final check of your records does not show anything stupid like the purchase of Leer Jet, then they will likely write-off the balance.

Finally, there is the Offer-in-Compromise that is so famously shown on TV as “I only paid pennies on the dollar”. Frankly, that is hooey. Why would the organization with the most collection powers in the world just let someone go? The answer is that they don’t. Fully 80% of Offers are rejected by the IRS. The 20% that are accepted only happen because the taxpayer was able to demonstrate that this was the best deal that the IRS could expect to make.

There is a fourth option that makes sense in some cases – filing bankruptcy. The rules are a little complicated and you need to consider this with an experienced attorney who specializes in bankruptcy.

There are ways to navigate out of this mess. It takes a considerable amount of work to evaluate which is the best route to take.