One of the most common tax myths is that debts will be removed from your credit report as soon as they are settled. Because consumer credit bureaus rely on public records to determine credit scores, they do consider tax debts. Information is customarily collected from county and state courts. These courts offer credit bureaus a wealth of information, including bankruptcies, foreclosures, and federal tax liens.
What are federal tax liens?
A federal tax lien gives the IRS the option of taking possession of a taxpayer's property. If the individual is in arrears and has been notified of his tax debt, the IRS will give him ten days to respond to a final notice before they enact a priority claim. This means that the IRS will receive all proceeds if property or personal possessions are sold at auction after the debtor declares bankruptcy. These federal liens are filed publically as a way of warning other creditors that the IRS has first dibs on all future collections.
According to America's most respected credit score company, Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO), a federal tax lien is just like a bankruptcy, in that it remains on your record for seven years. Because these debtors have serous delinquencies, they invariably receive much lower credit scores that are difficult to improve in the short term.
Once a tax lien is filed, a person cannot simply erase it by paying it. The only way to avoid a black mark on your record is to pay your tax debt or to enter an IRS payment plan for taxes before the lien is filed. Recent changes at the IRS provide a way for taxpayers who pay their tax debt in full or who allow the IRS to auto-withdraw payments to request that a tax lien be lifted from their record. However, the IRS does not perform this step automatically, which means taxpayers must know how and when to ask for the lien to be lifted. The surest way to avoid a ding to your credit is to do whatever you have to with the IRS to avoid a federal tax lien in the first place.
Why is it important to pay?
The importance of credit reports and scores should not be underestimated. Poor scores can keep you from getting a loan, renting an apartment, getting the best auto insurance rates, and even from getting a job. At the very least, poor credit scores will ensure that you pay a lot more for your monthly credit card bills. In the end, it is almost always cheaper to pay a tax bill than it is to suffer through seven years of bad credit.
We should also mention that liens can eventually become levies if your take debt is left unpaid. That means the IRS can start seizing your assets and garnishing your wages. They can also go into your bank account and take every penny that is owed to them if you have the funds available. Once again, the only way to prevent this nightmare scenario is to settle taxes before an IRS lien tax is filed.
With the help of an experienced tax advisor, it may be possible to avoid an IRS lien tax and to negotiate a payment plan for taxes. If, however, the lien has already been filed, a tax expert may be able to help you subordinate the lien against your personal belongings and property. This will enable you to sell your home or refinance your mortgage to settle taxes and halt IRS harassment. Trust us, you do not want the IRS selling your property and/or belongings at auction. For one thing, they almost never get fair value, which means that you might still owe them back taxes even after they sell everything you own.