When a taxpayer owes the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS), they can enter into a payment plan to pay the taxes owed. Often, under this scenario the IRS may file a federal tax lien to protect their interest in case the payment plan defaults. The federal tax lien is against the assets of the taxpayer, such as real property or personal property. Examples of assets that the lien would go against include the taxpayer’s vehicles, real property, and personal property. Just for clarity, a federal tax lien comes about when you have unpaid taxes. In cases where that unpaid tax amount reaches certain dollar amount thresholds, the IRS will file a notice of federal tax lien to establish its lien status against other creditors, such a mortgage on real property by a bank. Typically, this is important since it matters when the lien has been filed, since the liens typically have to be paid off in the order they were filed. Therefore, if you first first, you would be paid off before a lien filed after you.
From a practical perspective, if there is a notice federal tax lien, it most likley has it most negative impact on real property since its rare that a taxpayer would sell a vehicle or other personal property and the lien issue even be raised by the IRS or the purchaser. This is not the case for real perty since title insurance causes an analysis of the properties title, and tax liens would show up on the lien search, and would have to be paid off at closing.
Therefore, you might ask what do you do if the proceeds of the property sale are not sufficient to pay of the tax lien in full, but you still want to sell the property? The answer to that question is that by filing Form 14135, Application for Certificate of Discharge of Property from Federal tax Lien, which asks the IRS to discharge the tax lien from a particular piece of real property in exchange for the fair market value of the IRS’s interest in that real property. T complete the application, you need to attach the deed to the property, an appraisal, county valuation, contract of sale, the title report, and proposed closing statement. Be careful with the appraisal since the IRS will use that report to justify the monies it receives in the sale. This can sometimes be problematic since if the appraisal was ordered for the bank to justify the loan amount, it will typically be appraised at a value very close to the contract price. When this is a problem is when the seller, in order to entice a buyer, offers a sellers concession by inflating the selling price and then the bank loan is paying for the closing costs which helps the buyer. From the IRS perspective, they sometimes see the higher selling price (over fair value) and want that amount. In most cases we can correct their misunderstanding on this issue, but it is a item to pay attention to if your are looking to discharge a tax lien and also offer a seller’s concession.