Falling on hard times financially can also lead to falling behind on your taxes. When your tax debt becomes extremely delinquent, the IRS may issue a garnishment on your wages. This garnishment, or levy, allows the IRS to take part of your wages each pay period. A garnishment will continue until you: A. make other arrangements to pay off your tax debt; B. your debt has been paid in full; or C. the levy has been released. Overwhelmed by the thought of losing your wages, you may wonder if filing for bankruptcy will relieve you from an IRS garnishment.
Filing for bankruptcy can in fact offer some relief from the stress of an IRS garnishment. Once you file bankruptcy, a court ordered automatic stay will immediately go into effect. This stay will stop any type of debt collection, including garnishments and seizures, for the duration of the bankruptcy case. However, since bankruptcy will not get rid of most tax debts, how your garnishment is affected after the case is over will depend on which type of bankruptcy is filed: Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, all of your dischargeable debts will be wiped out. Since most tax debts are not dischargeable, they will remain. The IRS garnishment will, however, be temporarily halted due to the automatic stay while your bankruptcy case is processed. When your case is over, you will still owe on your tax debt. For this reason, while Chapter 7 can offer a window of relief, it does not offer a long-term solution to the situation.