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How to Get a Federal or State Tax Lien Removed from Your Credit Report

John Ganotis

John Ganotis

Updated May 31, 2017

When you have an unpaid tax bill with the IRS, your state, your city, or your county, a tax lien can be filed in an effort to force you to pay your outstanding tax obligation.

Liens exist to protect the right of the government to claim your personal property (money or actual property) if you do not pay your taxes. When a tax lien is filed it becomes a public record and, therefore, can be viewed by anyone… including credit reporting agencies.

Many people with tax liens on their credit reports mistakenly believe that the IRS or the state tax authority has directly reported the lien to the credit bureaus. That is a myth. Rather, the credit bureaus themselves proactively seek out tax liens and other public records like judgments and bankruptcies in order to include these public records on consumer credit reports. Tax authorities are not “data furnishers” to the credit bureaus like banks and collection agencies.

Tax Lien Terms to Know

  • Unpaid — A tax lien has been issued due to unpaid taxes, and the debt has not yet been paid. Tax liens with this status will likely remain on your credit reports forever.
  • Paid or Released — The tax owed has been paid, so the lien (government claim on property) has been released. Tax liens with this status will usually remain on credit reports for 7 year from the date when the lax lien was paid.
  • Withdrawn — The tax authority has withdrawn the public record of the tax lien. Tax liens with this status do not appear on credit reports.
Want to learn all about building your credit and how you can make the most of your credit cards? Check out our Learn section here.

Q&A Video: How Can I Remove a Tax Lien from My Credit Report?

How Tax Liens Affect Your Credit Reports

Tax liens are one of the most difficult credit issues for a consumer to overcome. Since FICO and VantageScore consider a tax lien to be a derogatory item, it’s likely that a lien will lower your credit scores. Even when a tax lien is paid and released, you will likely continue to see it negatively impact your credit scores for many years as long as it’s on your credit files.

Unfortunately, there is a strong possibility that an unpaid tax lien will stay on your credit reports forever.

Tax liens, unlike regular collection accounts, are not required by law to be removed from your credit reports after 7 years. In fact, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (the federal law which governs credit reporting) says that a tax lien is not to be removed from credit reports until 7 years from the date the lien is paid and released. Unpaid tax liens can remain indefinitely. In layman’s terms…FOREVER.

Differences Between Federal and State Tax Liens

If you currently have outstanding federal tax liens, there is some good news. There is a way to have paid federal tax liens removed from your credit reports prior to 7 years from the date when the lien is released. In 2011, the IRS introduced the Fresh Start Program, which contained a new policy regarding the way the IRS handles federal tax liens.

Under this program, if a taxpayer pays his or her outstanding tax bill in full, then the IRS will allow for the lien to be withdrawn upon request by the taxpayer. There is even a chance for certain eligible taxpayers to have their federal liens withdrawn by the IRS once they have entered into a payment arrangement (agreeing to pay the tax obligation in full) and have made a minimum of 3 payments.

Once your tax lien has been withdrawn, you can notify all 3 credit bureaus to request that the lien be removed from your reports. The credit bureaus do not currently report withdrawn tax liens on consumer credit reports.

The IRS’s tax lien policy does not apply to state tax liens. Still, if you have paid a state tax lien then you can always request a withdrawal from your state. While there is no guarantee that you will receive a withdrawal of a state tax lien after it is paid, it certainly can’t hurt to ask.

If you are eligible to have a state tax lien removed from your credit report, you can follow the procedure below to attempt to have a it removed from your credit reports. Otherwise, you will need to wait until 7 years from the date of release for the lien to be removed from your credit reports.

Remember: paying your tax lien will immediately release it, but this does not automatically withdraw it from your credit report. You must be meet certain conditions to be eligible for an early withdrawal.

Getting a tax lien removed from your credit report is not always possible, and the process is complex and potentially lengthy. We’ve put together a list of the steps you should take to have the best chance of having your lien removed. The process is very similar for both federal and state tax liens, but you’ll be using different types of documents for each. If you’re only concerned about a federal tax lien, skip the next section.

State Tax Office Contact Information

Each state has its own policies when it comes to tax liens and credit reports. Click the state’s name to contact your tax office for more information about your options.

Alabama Hawaii Massachusetts New Mexico South Dakota
Alaska Idaho Michigan New York Tennessee
Arizona Illinois Minnesota North Carolina Texas
Arkansas Indiana Mississippi North Dakota Utah
California Iowa Missouri Ohio Vermont
Colorado Kansas Montana Oklahoma Virginia
Connecticut Kentucky Nebraska Oregon Washington
Delaware Louisiana Nevada Pennsylvania West Virginia
Florida Maine New Hampshire Rhode Island Wisconsin
Georgia Maryland New Jersey South Carolina  Wyoming

Removing Tax Liens from Your Credit Reports

These are the complete steps to getting a federal tax lien removed from your reports, including the qualifications you’ll need to meet. This is the same general process to use for state tax liens as well, but the IRS only guarantees the withdrawal of tax liens. Each state has its own policies when it comes to tax liens and credit reports.

1. Request a Copy of Your Credit Report and Check for Accuracy

You can receive a free report from Any reported tax liens can be found on the public records section of the report. Once you have found the tax lien, you need to check the balance information. You must pay all liens in full before a credit bureau will consider removing the bad debt.

2. Contact the Appropriate Tax Office

Contact your federal or state tax office to confirm the outstanding balance and pay off whatever is left. This is a great opportunity to agree upon a repayment plan or if you have the ability, pay the debt in full. You must settle the debt in full or you will further damage your credit and will be prevented from removing the lien. Be sure to get your repayment agreement in writing.

3. Pay off Your Balance

Pay the debt, either in full or through the repayment plan you established with the tax office. Make sure you save all documents related to the repayment of the lien. Request a paid-in-full letter from the tax office. You will need to save these documents in order to make a case for removal.

4. Preparing to File a Dispute

For Federal Taxes

The IRS’s recent “Fresh Start” program has made it easier for people to request a withdrawal of a federal tax lien, granting withdrawals even when balances remain unpaid when they are under a certain amount. You may qualify for this, but there is no guarantee. To qualify for this program after the lien is released, you must usually meet the following 2 criteria:

  1. You have been in compliance with the law for the past 3 years when it comes to filing individual, business, and information returns
  2. You are current on all estimated tax payments and federal tax deposits

To qualify for the program while the lien is still being paid, you must generally meet the following 6 criteria:

  1. You qualify as a taxpayer.
  2. You owe no more than $25,000.
  3. The Direct Debit Installment Agreement must be on track to pay off the entire amount within 60 months, or before the Collection Statue expires, whichever is earlier.
  4. You are fully compliant with all other payment and filing requirements.
  5. You have made at least 3 consecutive payments in the direct debit payment plan.
  6. You have never defaulted on a Direct Debit Installment agreement.

If you meet either of these sets of criteria, you may be eligible to have the tax lien withdrawn from your credit report. If so, go on to the next steps.

  1. After paying off your balance in full or being granted a waiver for your unpaid balance, you should receive IRS Form 668(Z), Release of Federal Tax Lien
  2. Find your original IRS Form 668(Y), Notice of Federal Tax Lien
  3. Fill out IRS Form 12277, Application for Withdrawal of Filed Form 668(Y)
  4. Submit all 3 of the above documents to the IRS, along with an explanation of why you are requesting the lien to be withdrawn.
  5. After some time for processing, you should receive IRS Form 10916(c), Withdrawal of Filed Notice of Federal Tax Lien.
  6. You will use IRS Form 10916(c) in the next steps.

For State Taxes

After paying your tax lien in full, you will need to contact your state tax office and request a form verifying the release of the lien. This process will differ by state.

5. Dispute Online, Write a Dispute Letter, or Call the Credit Bureaus

You can dispute an item on your credit report in 3 different ways: online, by mail, or by phone. You must submit a dispute for every credit report that you want to remove the tax lien from. This means that if the lien is on all 3 of your credit reports, you’ll need to send a dispute to each credit agency.

Dispute an Item Online

The simplest way to dispute an item on your credit report is to use the online dispute process provided by each credit bureau. You’ll need to provide some identifying information, and then you can follow the steps provided by the credit agency. You can also use this service to check the status of your dispute, whether you submitted it online, by mail, or by phone.

Equifax Online Dispute Site Experian Online Dispute Site TransUnion Online Dispute Site

Dispute an Item by Mail

Write a certified dispute letter to all relevant credit bureaus reporting the tax lien and your full repayment of it (a certified letter requires confirmation of delivery, so you’ll know that your letter was received – ask how to send one at your post office). The credit bureaus may remove the lien if you have proof that the lien is paid, but this varies based on the situation and the state.

You will need to include all documents related to the lien with the letter. This includes the file number you’ll find on each of your credit reports. For federal taxes, this should include IRS Form 10916(c) from the previous step.

Make a copy of the section of your credit report that includes the tax lien, and circle the tax lien name and description with a bright-colored pen or marker. You will use this information in your letter and send the copy along with it. Once you have the documents and name of the tax lien, you are ready to write your letter.

See the next section for a sample letter you can use as an example, based on a template provided by the FTC. Just fill in the appropriate spaces with your own information.

TransUnion also provides a form you can print and fill out to mail in.

Credit Bureau Mailing Addresses For Disputes
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion LLC
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

Dispute an Item by Phone

You can dispute a tax lien by phone as well. You’ll need to gather together all documents related to the lien, as explained in the section above.

Equifax Experian TransUnion
1-866 349-5191 Use the phone number found on your credit report 800-916-8800
Monday – Friday
Hours: 8 am – 11 pm EST
Closed on major U.S. holidays

Sample Dispute Letter for Tax Liens

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[Your City, State, Zip Code]


Complaint Department
[Company Name]
[Street Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. I have circled the items I dispute on the attached copy of the report I received.

This item: [identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, a tax lien. Include the date that the lien began] is inaccurate because I have been issued a formal tax lien withdrawal notice from [either the IRS or the state that filed the tax lien]. I am requesting that the item be removed to correct the information.

Enclosed are copies of [use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, like the copy of your credit report. For federal tax liens, you should also write “IRS Form 10916(c)” here] supporting my position. Please reinvestigate this matter and delete the disputed item as soon as possible.

[Your Name]

Enclosures: [List what you are enclosing, like copies of credit reports and IRS Form 10916(c).]

6. Send the Letter to the Credit Bureaus

Finally, send the dispute letter and all supporting documents to all credit bureaus. Keep a copy of the letter for your records. Be patient in waiting for a response from the credit bureaus. They have 30 days to respond to your request and an additional 90 days to make a decision regarding the inquiry. The whole process can take as long as four months.

If you have feedback or questions about this, please contact us!

Was this helpful?
  • Monte Anderson

    I have a paid tax lien for an HOA bill that was past due. How can i get it removed from my credit?

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    • alwaysbeclozing

      Have you asked your HOA to remove the item from your credit report? Aren’t they your neighbors? Surely they will if you ask…

  • Robert

    For people that need help filling out the IRS form, here is a step by step guide:

  • Terry Carrey

    Hi, above you outlined the Fresh Start Program. Are there any programs/ways to remove NYS tax liens?

    • John Ganotis

      I do not think New York offers a similar program, since they don’t mention anything like that on this page:

      A paid tax lien stays on credit reports for 7 years from when it is paid. If it is erroneously on your credit report, then you could dispute it.

  • Mona L Chinault

    Can I have a paid state lien withdrawn from my credit report and if so how?

    • John Ganotis

      The IRS has a program to give paid tax liens “Withdrawn” status, but not all states or local governments do. Otherwise, a paid tax lien will remain on your credit reports for 7 years from when it is paid.

  • Yelionora Petriyenko

    I paid off a state tax lien in Oregon. What are my next steps to try and get it withdrawn from my credit report. I’m lost and and don’t know where to start.

    • John Ganotis

      The IRS has a program to get federal tax liens withdrawn, but I’m not aware of a similar program in Oregon. You may be able to find someone more familiar with the tax laws in Oregon to ask if there is a way to get Withdrawn status for state tax liens there.

    • Mona L Chinault

      Thank you John for answering so quickly. I live in Maryland and did some more search. I called the state to find out. The state is sending a request to the district Court House asking for the liens to be withdrawn. Depending on individual case they may or may not withdraw the liens. It depends on how long and if you have stayed current on payments. I figured it’s worth a try. I’ll let everyone know as soon as I do.

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  • Warren Coker

    Does South Carolina have a tax lien removal program where I can get it withdrawn from my credit report? I have paid it in full and it was on my 2015 taxes. Any help would be appreciated.

    • John Ganotis

      They may have a program. We have not done in-depth research on each state since there are so many and there could frequently be changes on a state-by-state basis. I recommend you contact the South Carolina department of revenue to see whether there is a withdrawal program in South Carolina.

    • Tammy Carlisle

      South Carolina Department of Revenue Will No Longer File Tax Lien Satisfactions

      TOPICS:DORSCDORSouth CarolinaSouth Carolina Department Of RevenueTax Lien

      The South Carolina Department of Revenue (“DOR”) is the state agency charged with collecting most South Carolina taxes, including income taxes, sales and use taxes, and withholding taxes. If a taxpayer fails to pay an assessed tax liability, DOR may file a tax lien against a taxpayer, with the lien notice being filed in one or more of the county register of deeds offices. The filing of the lien notice makes the delinquent tax liability a matter of public record.

      Prior to March 1, 2014, when a taxpayer fully paid the amount secured by a filed tax lien, DOR would file a lien satisfaction with the county register of deeds office to release the lien. The lien satisfaction alerted the public that the lien had been paid in full. The satisfaction and the original tax lien both remained in the records of the register of deeds, however, and both could continue to be viewed by the general public.

      S.C. Code § 12-58-165 was added to the South Carolina Code on June 13, 2013, and now permits DOR to take action necessary to “expunge” the recording of a tax lien once the lien is fully paid and satisfied. An expungement, unlike a lien satisfaction, is a direction to the register of deeds office to remove the lien from the public record.

      Effective March 1, 2014, DOR will no longer file tax lien satisfactions. Instead, DOR will now file expungements when a lien is fully paid and satisfied.

      Taxpayer Impact

      The filing of a tax lien has an immediate negative impact on a taxpayer’s credit record which continues from the date of filing for up to fifteen years. When a tax lien is paid in full and a satisfaction is filed, a taxpayer’s credit record continues to be negatively impacted for seven additional years even after payment.

      DOR’s decision to file expungements instead of satisfactions effective March 1, 2014 is a taxpayer-friendly policy that will benefit taxpayers who fully pay and satisfy a lien. When an expungement is filed, the tax lien is removed from the public record and the taxpayer’s credit record. A taxpayer’s credit will no longer be negatively affected for seven years after a lien is paid.

      Taxpayers who fully pay a lien on or after March 1, 2014 do not need to take any action in order for DOR to file an expungement (aside from paying the lien amount). Taxpayers who have fully paid a lien prior to March 1, 2014 may request that DOR file an expungement. Absent a request, the lien will remain of record and continue to have a negative credit record impact.

  • wayne cox

    does anyone know if Ohio has a state tax lien removal program?

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  • TammyL

    any hope to remove the lien if its over 90K? I have install agreement in place.

    • John Ganotis

      Sure, if it’s a federal tax lien you can follow the process on this page to have it removed once you pay it off.

      • TammyL

        Thank you for responding. I haven’t paid it off yet but was still hoping to have it removed since I’m making payments. I read about a “withdrawal ” but that seems like a long shot in my case.

        • John Ganotis

          A federal tax lien can be removed when it has “withdrawn” status. As far as I know the IRS Fresh Start program can only be used to get “withdrawn” status once you’ve paid everything owed to the IRS (not while payments are being made).

  • Kristy Rhodes

    My wife and I have two state tax liens that we listed as Joint Responsibility. since the new law requiring specific information be associated with the tax lien was enacted, they were removed from my wifes report but they will not remove them from mine. I don’t understand why they removed them from my wifes report but not mine. Can you please shed some light on this or tell me if its possible I could have the tax liens withdrawing from my creidit report?

    • John Ganotis

      When it comes to state tax liens it really depends on your state. There is an IRS program to get paid federal tax liens withdrawn, but when it comes to state tax liens, the laws and programs vary from one state to the next. I recommend finding someone who’s familiar with tax laws in your state to ask, or you could contact your state’s department of revenue or similar department to see if they have a program like the IRS does for getting paid tax liens withdrawn and ultimately removed from your credit reports.

      • Alev Durmus-Pedini

        Hello John, same here in GA, they never put it on my husband’s but I can’t remove mine. However, Transunion said (opposite to what you said above) that they don’t seek out that information, the State informed them. Is this accurate?

        • John Ganotis

          Hi Alev, what specifically are you saying is the “opposite to what you said above”? Is what accurate?

          • Alev Durmus-Pedini

            Hi John, sorry to add a confusion. I was referring to your 3rd paragraph. “Many people believe…” I was talking to TransUnion at the time and they told me GA state reported my tax lien to them! After I disputed, it was still there, I disputed again this time they said it was reported a second time However, I looked at TU’s letter, it states that they or a company they hired collect this information!!! Plus GA Dep. of Revenue assured me that they don’t report this to anyone, but it is public record. However, TU is the only agency using this info and lowering my credit score, even though same lien applies to my husband, his score is clean…So they lied-But once it is on my record, it stays there 7 years even though using that information is just random???!!!!! Thanks so much.

          • John Ganotis

            The credit bureaus monitor public records, which is how they know about tax liens. Does that answer your question?

          • Alev Durmus-Pedini

            Yes, thank you John.

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  • Kristy Rhodes

    My wife and I have two state tax liens in Michigan that were listed as Joint Responsibility. Since the new law requiring specific information is associated with the tax lien was enacted, they were removed from my wife’s report but they will not remove them from mine. I don’t understand why they removed them from my wife’s report but not mine. Can you please shed some light on this or tell me if it’s possible I could have the tax liens withdrawing from my credit report?

  • Tracie Newell-Fallon

    I had a Fed and State tax lien, I paid both off 5 years ago, and have reached out to all 3 credit bureaus. I have asked how to have to how to get these derogatory marks off of my report. I am getting no where. I have submitted all necessary documentation etc. Help.
    Tracie Fallon

    • John Ganotis

      A paid tax lien will not be removed just because it has been paid. Only withdrawn tax liens can be removed. If you haven’t already, you can get a paid federal tax lien withdrawn by following the instructions on this site. Not all states have programs to give paid tax liens withdrawn status, but you can usually find out by checking with your state’s department of revenue. We’ve provided links on this page.

  • Linda Hernandez

    I have an unpaid lien that has been put on my credit report..What Im wanting to know there a way I can have it removed from my report..? I feel that this bringing my rate down..and Im trying to see if i can get a going thru some bad financial issues at this there maybe a letter i can get from the IRS to send to my credit report company to remove the lien?

    • John Ganotis

      If it is a Federal tax lien then once you pay it off you can get it withdrawn (and removed from your credit reports) by following the instructions on this page.

      • Linda Hernandez

        I read somewhere that, if I request, there is a letter the IRS can send send to my credit report remove the lien from the report..Im on an installment agreement at this why would they put a lien on me??

        • John Ganotis

          If you read the instructions on this page they cover the criteria for being able to get a tax lien removed early, like being on track to pay off the entire amount within 60 months and not owing more than $25,000. I don’t know your situation so I can’t say for sure why you have a Federal tax lien, but that typically happens if you haven’t paid taxes on time. See this page of the IRS website for more details about that:

      • Tammy Carlisle

        does released mean withdrawn?

        • John Ganotis

          No, those are different.

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  • Shelly Moore Alcock

    The State of Michigan is the worst business I have ever tried to work with. I hired an attorney in 2015 that wrote a letter on my behalf and we have received zero response. They didn’t have a balance and used my attorney hours to try to figure that out. The lien shows almost 3 times the amount of the balance they had on file. They are a joke. Their site listings are broken and they make it very clear they don’t want to work with you in anyway. I’ve been working on this since 2012 and I see no resolution in site. If anyone has any promising information about dealing with the St. of Michigan please let me know. .

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  • Debo Jenkins

    I have a tax lien in Washington State that has been fully paid. It is listed on my credit report as a state tax lien but it’s from overpayment of unemployment benefits. Can you advise on the best steps for me to have this removed?

    • John Ganotis

      Just because a tax lien is paid does not mean it can be removed. A lien must have Withdrawn status to be removed. The federal government has a program to give withdrawn status to paid liens, and some states do, too. To find out if your state has a program like that I recommend you contact your state’s department of revenue or go to its website.

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  • Courtney Rae

    My husband and I are trying to buy a house, his credit score needs to go up 50 more points in order to qualify for a loan. He had unpaid taxes on his credit report so he went and paid it off in full. How long will it take for it to reflect his credit score? Having paid off his tax debt in full, will that help improve his score? Thanks!

    • John Ganotis

      Credit scoring models are proprietary and complex, and I don’t know your whole situation, so I can’t say for sure whether you will see all of his credit scores go up since the tax debt has been paid. If there is a federal tax lien on his credit report, you can probably get withdrawn status now that it has been paid, which will remove it from credit reports.

  • Kellie Peterson

    My partner had a paid tax lien on his credit report. His ex wife who did the books and taxes for his business states that is was a mistake by the IRS (she is a tax assessor btw) I am curious why it would be listed as paid if it was a mistake. The tax office where it is filed doesn’t have any information on the “mistake”. She is not a beacon of truth… I am attempting to cl at up his credit. Yet this situation is puzzling.
    Any suggestions ???

    • John Ganotis

      If it’s on there in error, he can likely get it removed with a dispute (/learn/errors-mistakes-in-your-credit-report/). If it’s legitimately his, then once it’s paid he may be able to get it withdrawn using the instructions on this page, depending on what kind of lien it is.

      • Kellie Peterson

        Thank you…
        It was marked as paid… and was a lien against his house. I see the withdrawal process….

  • Andrea Jackson

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The Insider

Brendan Harkness
Review of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
Brendan Harkness | Nov 14, 2017

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard is popular for its rewards, but is this card right for you? Read our review to decide for yourself.

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Brendan Harkness
Review of the Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard®
Brendan Harkness | Nov 01, 2017

Barclaycard CashForward World Mastercard earns 1.5% cash back. How does that compare to other cash back cards? Find out here.

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Brendan Harkness
Review of the American Express Blue Cash Everyday® and Blue Cash Preferred® Cards
Brendan Harkness | Oct 20, 2017

The Blue Cash Everyday & Blue Cash Preferred Cards from American Express are popular for their rewards, but is one of them right for you? Read to find out.

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