Understanding IRS Wage Garnishment: Percentage and Exemptions

Wage garnishment is a legal tool employed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to collect unpaid tax liabilities. It involves the redirection of a portion of an individual’s earnings to the IRS until the outstanding debt is settled. This article delves into the percentage of income the IRS can garnish, exemptions available, and strategies to navigate wage garnishment effectively.

Percentage of Income Subject to Garnishment

Generally, the IRS is authorized to garnish between 25% and 50% of an individual’s disposable income. Disposable income refers to the amount of income remaining after deducting legally required expenses such as taxes and Social Security contributions (FICA).

Exemptions from Wage Garnishment

Certain portions of income are exempt from IRS wage garnishment, providing financial relief to taxpayers. These exemptions include:

  • Approximately $12,200 annually for single filers with no dependents
  • Approximately $26,650 annually for heads of households with two dependents
  • Approximately $32,700 annually for married couples filing jointly with two dependents

These exemption amounts are subject to annual adjustments based on inflation.

Strategies to Address Wage Garnishment

1. Request a Hearing:

Upon receiving a notice of intent to levy, taxpayers have 30 days to request a hearing. This hearing provides an opportunity to dispute the garnishment, negotiate a payment plan, or claim exemptions.

2. Payment Plan:

Taxpayers can request a payment plan to gradually settle their tax debt. This arrangement allows for smaller, more manageable payments over an extended period.

3. Offer in Compromise:

In certain circumstances, taxpayers may qualify for an Offer in Compromise. This program enables them to settle their tax debt for less than the full amount owed.

4. Prove Financial Hardship:

Taxpayers can demonstrate that wage garnishment would cause undue financial hardship. This may result in a reduction or suspension of the garnishment.

5. File for Bankruptcy:

Declaring bankruptcy can halt wage garnishment proceedings. However, it’s important to note that bankruptcy has long-term financial implications.

Additional Considerations

1. Bonuses and Commissions:

Bonuses, commissions, and other forms of compensation are subject to wage garnishment.

2. Frequency and Duration of Garnishment:

Wage garnishment continues until the tax liability is fully satisfied or alternative arrangements are made with the IRS.

3. Criminal Penalties:

Willfully failing to pay taxes or committing tax fraud can result in criminal charges and potential imprisonment.

IRS wage garnishment can be a stressful experience, but understanding the process and available exemptions can help taxpayers navigate the situation effectively. By exploring options such as payment plans, offers in compromise, and claiming exemptions, individuals can mitigate the impact of wage garnishment and work towards resolving their tax debt. Seeking professional guidance from a tax attorney or financial advisor is highly recommended to ensure the best possible outcome.

IRS Wage Garnishment: How Much Can the IRS Take? What Should You Do?


What percentage of your paycheck can the IRS garnish?

Under federal law, most creditors are limited to garnishing up to 25% of your disposable wages. However, the IRS is not like most creditors and often garnishes up to 70% of your disposable income each pay period.

How soon can the IRS garnish your wages?

The IRS Laws on the Wage Garnishment Process The last one is an “intent of notice to levy.” After sending this notice, the IRS identifies the most convenient way to get the funds from you, and in most cases, that is a wage garnishment. The garnishment starts 30 days after you receive this notice.

How much do you have to owe the IRS before they come after you?

If you owe more than $10,000, the IRS will add penalties and interest. The agency may also issue a federal tax lien once your bill exceeds $10,000.

What percentage of your income is garnished by the IRS?

Unlike other creditors, the IRS is not restricted to wage garnishments of 25 percent of your total income. Instead, the IRS has a specific formula to determine how much money you need to live on, and then they garnish the rest of you (or the head of household’s) wages.

Can the IRS garnish my wages?

However, the IRS must follow stringent guidelines before it can garnish your wages .The IRS will generally send you a notice and a demand for payment of the amount due. If you fail to pay this

What are IRS garnishment rules?

A specific type of levy is the garnishment of your employment wages each week. However, before the IRS starts to take a portion of your salary, there are specific guidelines it must follow. Understanding the IRS garnishment rules may help you prepare for the garnishment or even allow you to challenge and stop it.

What is IRS wage garnishment?

IRS wage garnishment, also known as a wage levy, is a legal process through which the IRS collects unpaid taxes by requiring an employer to withhold a portion of an employee’s wages to satisfy the tax debt. The IRS can levy your wages without obtaining a court order, unlike other creditors.

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