Safeguarding Your Wealth: What Money Can the IRS Not Touch?

In the realm of taxes, it’s a common concern for individuals to wonder about the extent of the IRS’s reach into their finances. While the IRS has significant authority to collect unpaid taxes, there are certain types of income and assets that enjoy legal protection from seizure or garnishment. Understanding these exemptions can help you better plan your financial affairs and provide peace of mind.

Retirement Accounts: A Safe Haven

One of the most significant assets that the IRS generally cannot touch are certain retirement accounts. While the IRS can levy some retirement accounts, such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and 401(k) plans, they are restricted from accessing funds in retirement accounts that have specific legal protections. These include:

  • Certain Pension Plans: Qualified pension plans, such as defined benefit plans and some defined contribution plans, are typically shielded from IRS levies and garnishments.

  • Annuities: Annuities, which are contracts with insurance companies that provide a stream of income during retirement, are also generally protected from IRS seizure.

The rationale behind these protections is to ensure that individuals have a secure source of income during their golden years, free from the threat of IRS collection actions.

Other Income and Assets Untouchable by the IRS

Beyond retirement accounts, there are various other types of income and assets that the IRS cannot legally seize or garnish when collecting unpaid taxes. These include:

  1. Social Security Benefits: While the IRS can garnish up to 15% of your Social Security benefits through the Federal Payment Levy Program, they cannot touch Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.

  2. Unemployment Benefits: The IRS generally cannot garnish unemployment benefits, which are intended to provide temporary financial assistance during periods of joblessness.

  3. Workers’ Compensation: Payments received as a result of a work-related injury or illness are typically exempt from IRS levies and garnishments.

  4. Disability Benefits: Certain disability payments, such as those received through the Veterans Affairs or state-administered disability programs, are protected from IRS seizure.

  5. Child Support Payments: The IRS cannot seize child support payments received by a taxpayer, as these funds are intended for the welfare of the child.

  6. Public Assistance Benefits: Payments received through government assistance programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are typically exempt from IRS levies and garnishments.

  7. Minimum Wage: The IRS is restricted in the amount of wages they can garnish, ensuring that you are left with a certain amount of income based on the federal minimum wage, your filing status, and the number of dependents you claim.

  8. Inheritances: In most cases, inheritances received from a deceased friend, relative, or acquaintance are not subject to federal income tax, as the estate of the deceased pays any applicable taxes before the inheritance is distributed.

  9. Compensatory Damages: Damages awarded for physical injury, physical illness, or emotional distress due to a physical injury or sickness are typically exempt from taxes.

  10. Life Insurance Death Benefits: Generally, when the beneficiary of a life insurance policy receives the death benefit, this money is not counted as taxable income and is not subject to IRS seizure.

It’s important to note that while these income sources and assets are generally exempt from IRS collection actions, there may be specific situations or exceptions where they could be subject to levies or garnishments. It’s always advisable to consult with a tax professional or legal advisor to understand your rights and obligations regarding your particular financial circumstances.

Protecting Your Financial Future

Understanding the types of income and assets that the IRS cannot touch can provide valuable peace of mind and help you plan your financial affairs more effectively. By strategically allocating your resources and taking advantage of legally protected assets, you can safeguard your wealth and ensure a secure financial future for yourself and your loved ones.

However, it’s important to remember that tax laws and regulations are complex and subject to change. Consulting with a qualified tax professional or financial advisor can help you navigate these complexities and make informed decisions that align with your financial goals and protect your hard-earned assets from unnecessary seizure or garnishment.

What Money Can The IRS Not Touch


What can the IRS not take?

The IRS can’t seize certain personal items, such as necessary schoolbooks, clothing, undelivered mail and certain amounts of furniture and household items.

Can IRS touch your savings?

It can garnish wages, take money in your bank or other financial account, seize and sell your vehicle(s), real estate and other personal property. If you receive an IRS bill titled Final Notice of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your Right to A Hearing, contact us right away.

Can IRS take money from your bank account?

If you have overdue taxes, the IRS may take money out of your bank account directly. We’re often asked, “How is the government able to do this?” If the IRS does determine the appropriate action is taking money directly from your account, they will track down your bank account.

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