By Patrick Temple-West
WASHINGTON Oct 4 The U.S. Internal Revenue
Service said on Friday that it has stopped initiating new asset
seizures from tax delinquents during the government shutdown and
is enforcing seizures only in "extremely limited" instances.
During the shutdown, the "IRS is not sending out levies or
liens," an agency spokeswoman said in a statement to Reuters.
Under tax law, the IRS can seize property from U.S. citizens
who have not paid their taxes. Known as levies, such seizures
can target bank account balances, real estate or other assets.
Levies are different from tax liens. A lien is a claim used
as security for a tax debt, while a levy actually takes the
assets or property to satisfy the debt.
Any levies or liens a taxpayer might receive during the
shutdown were printed before the IRS closed, the agency said.
Tax professionals had expressed concern that the government
shutdown had left tax delinquents defenseless against IRS asset
IRS staffers who assist delinquent taxpayers in defending
themselves from collectors have been furloughed, while some IRS
tax collectors who pursue individuals and businesses that are
delinquent are still working through the shutdown.
The shutdown, now in its fourth day, has furloughed more
than 90 percent the IRS's 94,000-person workforce.
The only enforcement actions the IRS is undertaking during
the shutdown involve criminal cases or non-criminal "isolated
instances where we need to take immediate action to protect the
government's interest," IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge said.
"For criminal issues, most IRS Criminal Investigation
employees continue to work during this period," Eldridge said.