Does the IRS have forever to collect what I owe them?

The general rule is that the IRS can collect taxes for up to 10 years from the date the IRS puts the tax on its books. This  is known as the assessment date. You can find this date on an account transcript. It is usually the first entry on which the tax is shown. It is not the same as the date the return was filed.

There are circumstances that extend the 10-year period. Common examples are while:

  • An installment agreement is under consideration

  • An Offer in Compromise is under consideration

  • A request for a Collection Due Process Hearing (a form of an appeal) is in process

  • Bankruptcy is in process

  • Request for innocent spouse relief is under consideration

  • While you live outside the U.S. continuously for at least six months

Important: There can be more than one assessment date applicable to a particular tax year. This happens when there additional tax is added, for example, as the result of an audit which creates another 10-year clock running for the IRS to collect that year's taxes.