The Notice of Federal Tax Lien on Personal Property and Bankruptcy

Debtor’s often have Notices of Federal Tax Liens outstanding at the time they file bankruptcy.  How are these handled?

First, a properly-noticed lien survives bankruptcy.  It continues to attach to any property owned at the time of the bankruptcy.  It does not attach to any property acquired after the petition date.

  1. Lien on real property.  If the bankrupt debtor owns a house and the IRS has filed a Notice of Federal Tax Lien against the debtor’s real property (in the county records), the IRS will generally keep that notice in place after bankruptcy.  The house may be underwater and the IRS lien thus worthless, but if the house appreciates in value, the IRS is entitled to the new value.

If, however, the debtor acquires a new piece of land after filing bankruptcy and discharging his taxes, the IRS lien won’t attach to the new piece of land.

  1. Personal property.  If there is a Notice of Federal Tax Lien filed against personal property, it attaches to everything the debtor owns on the day of the bankruptcy petition.  Once the debtor discharges the underlying tax, the IRS still has the right to seize all your personal assets (even those exempted) to satisfy its lien, but it just won’t.  Imagine: you, as a debtor, file for bankruptcy, go through the entire process, get your debts including your tax debts discharged, and then they send the Asset Recovery Team to your house to seize your car and sofas – for which it could get how much at auction?  Also, the lien doesn’t attach to newly-acquired property, so it would need to investigate whether the bracelet it proposes to seize and sell came from Aunt Tammy as a birthday gift after the bankruptcy petition was filed.  The IRS long ago figured out that the PR and legal problems here are huge, so they’ll go ahead and release the lien.

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  1. The Notice of Federal Tax Lien on Personal Property and Bankruptcy | Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Los Angeles California
  2. Federal Tax Liens | Federal Tax Relief

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