How Georgia Tax Lien Attorneys Can Help You

Assets that can have a tax lien placed on them

When it comes to collecting debts, the IRS and state tax authorities (such as the Georgia Department of Revenue) are very good at what they do. One reason they’re so effective is because they have an array of tax collection tools available. One tool in particular is the tax lien.

If you’re reading this page right now, you’ve probably received some sort of notice from the IRS or GA Department of Revenue (GA DOR) letting you know they have placed a lien or intend to place a lien on your property. This is a potentially serious problem, but don’t panic. There are things you can do to handle this tax issue. To get started, you’ll want to first get a solid understanding of what tax liens are and how they work.

What is a Tax Lien?

A tax lien is a legal claim placed on property to secure a tax debt. In plain English, it’s a form of “dibs” on property to help collect unpaid taxes. In Georgia, a tax lien is sometimes called a state tax execution.

The purpose of a lien is to make it harder for the taxpayer to sell the property subject to a tax lien and keep the money from the sale out of the hands of the tax collector.

How Does a Tax Lien Affect the Taxpayer?

A tax lien can be attached to any property you own. This includes your home, vehicles, personal possessions, business property, and any investments or retirement accounts you might have. Once a lien is in place, it will also become attached to any future property you may obtain.

Property subject to a tax lien cannot be sold until you settle your tax debt or the tax authority agrees to remove the lien. This can make it much harder to sell property, and if you can sell it, some or all of the proceeds will go to the IRS or GA DOR to pay off your tax debt.

Another way a tax lien can affect you is by making it harder to get credit. If you apply for a loan or want to refinance your home, the bank might deny your application. The lien indicates you could be a high credit risk and that the bank may be unable to get back its money if you default on the loan. This is because the bank will likely be behind the IRS or GA Department of Revenue when trying to collect a debt from you.

Although tax liens don’t go on credit reports, they’re a part of the public record. So anyone (such as a bank) can find them. For example, the Georgia Tax Center lets anyone search for tax liens.

What’s the Difference Between a Tax Lien and a Tax Levy?

A tax lien relates to the government’s right to property, such as receiving the proceeds from the sale of that property. A tax levy, on the other hand, is the government’s taking of your property – a seizure of it. Wage garnishment and property seizure are common forms of tax levies.

How Tax Liens Get Created

In the case of federal tax liens, they are automatically created when you don’t pay your outstanding tax balance after receiving your first tax bill. Things get really serious when the IRS files a Notice of Federal Tax Lien with state and local property records. This basically puts other creditors on notice that the IRS has a legal interest in your property.

Understand that not all unpaid federal tax debts get a Notice of Federal Tax Lien filed. There’s usually a minimum dollar amount the balance must be before the IRS takes this step. The current minimum threshold is $10,000, but the IRS has adjusted this amount multiple times in the past.

In Georgia, the DOR has the right to file a tax lien at any time without notice as long as the tax liability is due. Theoretically, this means the agency could file a tax lien if you owe as little as $1.

How to Deal with a Tax Lien

How to deal with a lien depends on whether it’s from the IRS or the Georgia Department of Revenue. If you’re dealing with an IRS lien, you can resolve the lien through:

  • Release: You can ask the IRS for a payoff of the tax lien, pay that amount, and the IRS will release the lien.
  • Withdrawal: The Notice of Federal Tax Lien gets removed from the public record. This could occur if you settle your tax debt with the IRS, it’s in the best interests of the federal government to withdraw the lien, or the IRS made a mistake placing a lien on your property.
  • Discharge: A lien involves a specific property being removed from the tax lien. The IRS may agree to this if you need to sell the property to help pay off your tax debt.
  • Subordination: This doesn’t remove the lien but lowers the IRS’ priority in relation to other creditors. This may make it easier to manage your debt by obtaining credit or refinancing your home.

If you’re trying to get rid of a Georgia state tax lien, you can release the lien through:

  • Cancellation: The lien goes away because you paid off your Georgia state tax debt in full. Setting up an installment agreement will not release a state tax lien, but it will prevent further collection actions while you get caught up on paying off your state tax debt.
  • Withdrawal: The Georgia DOR agrees to remove the lien because they filed it in error.
  • Release of Property from State Tax Lien: The Georgia DOR can issue a certificate of release of property from a state tax lien if you need to sell a property that is subject to the lien.

Do I Need a Tax Attorney to Handle My Tax Lien?

It depends. The most straightforward path to removing a tax lien is to pay it off in full. But this isn’t usually possible for most taxpayers because if it were, you probably would have paid off your tax debt already, and the lien would never have existed. This means you’ll need to find a way to convince the IRS or GA DOR to get rid of the lien in some other way.

Methods such as withdrawal, discharge, and subordination may require you to complete special forms and set out specific reasons as to why the lien should be dealt with in a particular way.

You may also appeal an IRS tax lien to the IRS Independent Office of Appeals. During the appeal, you can request a hearing to explain why you believe the IRS should not have a tax lien on your property. Potential reasons could include:

You don’t have to hire a tax attorney to help you handle a tax lien. But depending on how you’re trying to deal with the tax lien, you may need to reference specific tax provisions and case law to support your position. Additionally, there may be specific documents you need to provide to help you make your arguments to the IRS.

A tax attorney can be invaluable in these situations. They will not only save you countless hours of trying to figure out what to do and how to do it, but they’ll also present your case in a far more effective manner. Even if the tax lien can’t be dealt with head-on, a tax attorney can propose alternative resolution options to help you settle your tax debt.

When Should I Contact a Tax Lien Attorney?

It’s hard to say when you need to talk to a tax lien attorney. It will depend on several factors, such as how much money you owe, how the tax lien is affecting you, your financial situation, and the facts surrounding the tax lien.

That being said, if there’s no realistic way you can immediately pay your unpaid taxes and you are unsure of the next steps to take, you should talk to a tax professional as soon as possible.

The tax attorneys at Wiggam Law have years of experience handling state and federal tax liens and will be more than happy to discuss your case during an initial consultation.

Don’t let tax debt dictate your life. Contact us today at (404) 233-9800 or fill out our online consultation form to start dealing with your tax lien today.