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How long can the IRS collect on a past due debt?

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    Generally, the IRS has 10 years from the date of assessment to collect on an outstanding balance due per Internal Revenue Code 6502.  If a taxpayer inquires, the IRS will provide him or her with the collection statute expiration date (CSED) for each tax period.  A taxpayer can call the IRS and ask for their balances due and collection statute dates.  Usually, the IRS representative can provide this information over the phone unless the collection statute is suspended.

    Taxpayers need to be aware of the collection expiration dates and the events that can extend the 10 year period because the IRS may extend the collection period for no valid reason at all.

    For example, a taxpayer retained my tax law firm after he realized that the IRS extended his collection statute period by 5 years.  When the taxpayer contacted the IRS, he was told that it was a “computer glitch” but yet the IRS wanted to collect the outstanding balance due because it was still on the system.  When my firm contacted the IRS, we were not provided with a reason that the collection statute was extended by 5 years, and in fact, the IRS representative at the Service Center disconnected the call.

    After this occurred, we contacted the National Taxpayer Advocate’s Office for assistance.  Note that the Taxpayer Advocate’s Office does not take every case, and has a multi-level screening process.  When my office called the national hotline, the representative did not address the issue and mid-sentence transferred the call to the collections division of the IRS.  Thereafter, we faxed the local Taxpayer Advocate’s Office by completing a Form 911 Request for Taxpayer Advocate Assistance.  Fortunately, an advocate was assigned and opened a case file since we showed that multiple attempts were made to get the issue resolved before requesting the advocate’s assistance.  The Advocate initially agreed with the taxpayer that the CSED should have expired already, but referred the case to an IRS Advisor for review.

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