2019 IRS Levies Up 22%, Liens Up 33%, and Individual Audits Dropped 25%

June 30, 2020 | By: Charles P. Corsello, EA

The IRS released data for 2019 with a few interesting numbers related to enforcement actions and audits. We will review and compare the number of tax liens, tax levies, and audits in 2019 as compared to previous years.

Tax Liens Increase by 33%

When an individual or business has a tax bill that does not get paid, the IRS eventually will file a tax lien. The IRS will file a federal tax lien as a claim against the taxpayer’s property. The lien protects the federal government’s interest in all the taxpayer’s property, including personal property, real estate, and financial assets.

In 2019, the IRS filed 543,604 tax liens. In 2018, the IRS filed 410,220 tax liens. This represented a 33% increase from the number of tax liens filed in 2018.

2001-2019 IRS tax liens

Tax Levies Increase by 22%

After a taxpayer fails to pay a tax balance or set up an agreement with the IRS to pay off taxes owed, the IRS can issue a tax levy. A tax levy results in the IRS attempting to seize the taxpayer’s property. Some examples of tax levies include wage garnishment, 1099 levies, bank levies, seizure of your tax refund, seizure of personal vehicles, real estate, and more.

In 2019, the number of tax levies issued by the IRS totaled 785,963. As a result of this increase, tax levies increased by 22% over the 2018 figure of 639,300.

notice of federal levy 2001-2019

Individual Tax Return Audits Dropped 25%

The chance of an IRS audit in 2019 decreased substantially. For 2017 individual tax returns, the percentage of tax return examined was .5946% or 892,187 out of 150,043,227 returns filed.  However, for the fiscal year 2019, this percentage dropped to .4459%.   The IRS examined 226,617 individual tax returns out of 152,624,939 returns filed.


individual tax returns audited 2009-2019