What is an IRS wage levy? How much of my wages can the IRS take?

If you owe money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) related to unpaid federal income taxes, you should know that the IRS has the power to seize various assets from you to settle the debt.  Initially, the IRS will simply notify you that you owe them money, and the IRS will encourage you to pay the amount you owe, whether as a lump sum payment or by establishing a payment plan to settle the tax debt.  However, if you do not work with the IRS to identify a way to resolve the debt and you continue to ignore their requests for payment, the IRS can ultimately use a levy to satisfy the debt.

A levy is simply the legal method the IRS has available to them to take your property.  An IRS levy can include most anything you have with value that the IRS can then sell or otherwise liquidate in order to satisfy the debt that you owe.  The levy can include your salary or income as well.  A levy against your wages is often called wage garnishment.

The IRS executes a wage levy by contacting your employer, who then has to withhold a certain portion of your pay to sent to the IRS.  The IRS will provide your employer with a method for calculating the maximum amount that your employer can pay you.  This means that there is technically no limit or cap as to how much of your income the IRS can take.  If you obtain a raise or work overtime, you will not receive the additional money; the IRS will take it.

The amount of your wages the IRS can seize is based on:

  • your filing status (e.g., single, head of household, married filing jointly, or married filing separately),
  • how often you are paid, and
  • how many exemptions you claim on your paycheck.

Depending on your specific situation and how much money you make, an IRS wage levy may mean you no longer take home enough money to pay for the necessities of life or to support your family.

What should I do if the IRS is threatening to garnish my wages?

You should contact a tax attorney to get help in working with the IRS.  Addressing unpaid tax liability and the threat of the IRS taking your wages can be a frightening matter, as well as a difficult situation to resolve if you do not have experience in doing so.  A lawyer who has training and experience in tax matters will be able to review your situation and work with the IRS on your behalf to resolve the tax matter.

If you would like a free consultation with a tax attorney about your tax issues, you can obtain one by completion the short form below.  This consultation is protect by the attorney-client privilege, which means the attorney cannot discuss with the IRS whatever information you share with them, and does not mean you have to hire the attorney to help.  But once you speak with the attorney, if you like what they have to say and how they can help you, you will then have someone on your side who can help you address your tax issues.

Please therefore take this opportunity to try to avoid having the IRS garnish your wages.  Get help today in addressing your tax issues with a tax attorney by your side.

by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.