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How Far Back Can The IRS Go To Collect Unpaid Taxes?

Not many people know that tax obligations can actually expire. The statute of limitations period for IRS collection is generally 10 years from the date the tax was assessed. This means that the IRS has 10 years to get you to pay your taxes, and once the time is up, the IRS must halt their efforts.

Only during this 10 year period can legal actions be taken against you for unpaid debt. After expiration of the 10 year period the tax obligation you owe is essentially erased. Congress is making it easier for a person to pay their tax obligation to the IRS with this statute of limitation. The statute of limitations expires for thousands of taxpayers every year, but if your Collection Statute Expiration Date (CSED) is near, the IRS may use every legal collection tactic available to collect what you owe.

What is the CSED?

Each tax assessment has a CSED, which is the maximum time period that the IRS has to collect unpaid taxes. The CSED is 10 years from the date the tax was originally assessed and anything beyond that date is off-limits. During this time period, the IRS has many tools at its disposal to make sure taxes are paid. For example, the IRS can file a Notice of Levy, which allows them to confiscate and sell your property to satisfy their tax debt. Just because your tax can expire doesn’t mean you should attempt to “wait out” the IRS because doing so can have long-term effects on your finances. However, it is important to understand that your debt will potentially expire and how to maximize this opportunity.

The 10 year collection period is not absolute and can be extended or suspended under certain circumstances:

  • Filing bankruptcy

  • Living abroad for six months or more

  • Military deferment – Any income tax due before or during military service may be deferred up to 180 days.

  • A Collection Due Process (CPD) hearing

  • Filing an extension

  • Innocent spouse relief

  • Offer in Compromise

  • Installment Agreement

How Can I Find Out My CSED?

To determine when the CSED period began for a specific liability, the most efficient approach is to request a transcript of your IRS account. You will want my assistance to request will want my assistance to request a transcript. We will assist you in completing the necessary forms and will submit the forms to the IRS . This transcript provides the date of assessment and other details of each tax year, and you will be able to find basic information such as the date of assessment, date of filing, and tax liability. Once you we obtain your transcript, we will analyze the data and perform the necessary calculations to determine the applicable CSED.

In some cases, the CSED must be recalculated by an IRS agent. However, recalculating the CSED can become tricky and is often miscalculated and can become a serious tax problem that many individual and business taxpayers face. If this happens, the mistake may result in unlawful collection activity and be a severe violation of your rights.


Have you received a notice from the IRS, or if you have years of unfiled tax returns, reach out to our office. We’ll schedule a no-obligation confidential consultation to explain your options to permanently resolve your tax problem. Click here to schedule your no cost consultation. We charge a flat fee for our services and will stop the IRS collection efforts.

Jace Kentner

Tax Attorney


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