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Tax liens

Tax liens, since they are an interest in the taxpayer's property, are not affected or discharged by a Chapter 7 discharge. 

If the tax is otherwise dischargeable, the taxing authority's claim after the discharge  is limited  to the property to which the lien has attached as of the commencement of the case. Debtors can file a motion in the bankruptcy proceeding to have the court value the lien, if it is likely that the value available to secure the lien is less than the amount of the claim secured by the lien.

A lien for a dischargeable tax, even if it attaches to some assets owned when the bankruptcy is filed, does not attach to assets acquired after the bankruptcy.

If the asset is one that loses value over time rather than gains value (such as household goods), discharged debtors sometimes just ignore the lien after discharge.  They expect the asset will, over time, become worthless and the taxing authorities are unlikely to enforce a lien on personal property.  Some personal property is even exempt, under IRS statutes, and the IRS cannot levy on it.

Tax liens in Chapter 13

In Chapter 13,  tax liens may be paid off through the plan.  Remember that a lien is a secured claim only to the extent of the value of the property to which it attaches. 

If the lien does not attach to any value (that is, the taxpayer does not have  assets with equity for the lien to attach to),  Chapter 13 may be used to eliminate the lien and force treatment of the tax claim according to its classification as either a  priority or non priority claims.  (That is, if the lien doesn't attach to any value, then it is treated as an unsecured claim:  priority if it is recent or a trust fund tax,  or unsecured and dischargeable if it is not).  

If the lien attaches to an appreciating asset, like a home, Chapter 13 can freeze the value of the lien at the values as of the filing of the bankruptcy.  Future appreciation, even during the Chapter 13 repayment plan, is free of the lien.

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