During tax season, most Americans are focused on getting their returns to the IRS by the April 18 deadline. But what happens if you fail to file on time and ignore the IRS' repeated warnings to pay up? Your savings, wages, assets and property might all be subject to seizure by the government — and when that happens, your belongings will be sold to the highest bidder. Judging by some of the belongings put up on the auction block in the past, the IRS doesn't discriminate too much against selling anything to recoup delinquent taxes. Read on to see some of the craziest — and most awesome — assets seized and sold by the IRS, and find out which ones are exempt from being levied.
1. Contents of a Hair Salon
At least the winning bidder will be sporting a stylish 'do from here on out. In 2015, the IRS was auctioning off an entire salon’s worth of equipment and products from a high-end hair stylist in Birmingham, Ala. Up for grabs were a series of salon, manicure and pedicure chairs; a dermabrasion machine; a massage table; assorted tables and chairs; and a full supply of Aveda hair care products. Bidding was slated to begin at $13,452. According to the IRS report, the property was seized from the owner for tax nonpayment.
2. A Pair of Parking Spaces
Finding parking in any city can get expensive, but this is just ridiculous. Two private parking spots in Boston sold at a 2013 auction for a whopping $560,000 ($280,000 each), reported The Boston Globe. The owners had originally purchased the spaces just over 20 years ago for $50,000, and the IRS seized the spaces from the owner to cover $600,000 owed in back taxes.
3. A Luxury Airplane
Though this bird was born to fly, it was grounded after its owner failed to pay back taxes. Now, its wings belong to someone else. According to Business Insider, a nearly-new 1976 Beechcraft 58TC-Baron, equipped with a piston turbo engine and carrying less than 6,500 flight hours, went up for auction in Arkansas in 2013 with a starting bid of $30,000 — a steal compared to the aircraft's original $170,750 price tag.
4. Darryl Strawberry's New York Mets Salary
In January 2015, a lucky bidder "became" Darryl Strawberry when he successfully made a $1.3 million bid for the former New York Mets slugger's deferred salary from the 1980s, according to ESPN. The unidentified man will receive a monthly check from the team of $8,891.82 for the next 18 years, which will amount to a total of $2 million. Originally the deferred pay had belonged to Strawberry's ex-wife, but when she filed for bankruptcy the judge ordered that the annuities belonged to the IRS for taxes owed from 1989, 1990, 2003 and 2004.
5. Music and Movie Memorabilia
From the jacket Brandon Lee was shot in from “The Crow” movie to a pair of platform boots worn by Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley, this IRS auction lot is not only bizarre, but pretty amazing. In February 2016, those items and over 120 others sold for a total of $71,140. The lot, confiscated from a man who didn’t pay his taxes, included many autographed art pieces, albums, guitars and much more rock ‘n roll and Hollywood gems.
6. Native American Land
It's part of an ongoing, culturally-sensitive debate — but in the end, what the government gives, the government can take away. In 2009, 7,100 acres of South Dakotan Crow Creek Sioux land was auctioned off to a private bidder for more than $2.5 million — an unfortunate loss for the tribe. The IRS, according to Color Lines, had alleged that the Crow Creek Sioux had failed to pay up to $3.1 million in federal employment taxes for a number of years.
7. Rapper's Assets Sold Back to Rapper
Young Buck seemed to be at the end of his career when the IRS was slated to auction off several of his luxury belongings after the rapper declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2012. The seized items, which included some jewelry, recording equipment and a personalized 615 Cashville necklace (named after his record label), all sold for $53,000. But here's the catch: according to HotNewHipHop.com, Young Buck later claimed that he bought back many of the items himself.
8. A Ponzi Schemer's Bugatti Veyron
Like conventions, IRS auctions are advertised as big, three-ring events where there's at least one big-ticket item up for grabs. One such valuable that made it to the front page of an IRS specialty auction brochure in 2010 was a Bugatti Veyron. The car was previously owned, and seized, by a convicted Ponzi schemer named Scott Rothstein. The luxury sports car went for the bargain price of $858,000, roughly half of its original $1.7 million MSRP. According to CNET, Rothstein, a former attorney in Florida, "used other people's money to curate a large stable of specialty vehicles, including a 1967 Corvette and a 208 Ford Expedition Limousine."
9. Delinquent Debts from Children
If someone owes back taxes or other funds to the government, the IRS doesn't stop pursuing the money even if the person is deceased — they'll collect it from the decedent's estate or surviving children. "The government is now going through old records to see if it overpaid people on Social Security," said Jake Novak of CNBC. "If it thinks it did, it can now seize the IRS tax refund checks of the children of those people it thinks it overpaid." A Washington Post report noted that in the first quarter of 2014 alone, The Treasury Department managed to collect $1.9 billion in said tax refunds, leaving these next of kin financially weakened because of mistakes they had nothing to do with.
What the IRS Can't Seize
Justin Timberlake would probably prefer that everyone forget about that time in 2003 when he was tricked on TV show "Punk'd" into thinking that his home was being seized, since a house is one of the first pieces of property the Treasury might repossess. Thankfully, there are a number of assets that are exempt from seizure by the IRS:
- Unemployment, and certain pension and annuity, benefits
- Specific service-connected disability payments
- Workers compensation
- Limited public assistance payments
- Minimum weekly exempt income
- Assistance under the Job Training Partnership Act
- Income for court-ordered child support payments
- Schoolbooks and clothing
- Undelivered mail
- Certain amounts worth of fuel
- Furniture and personal effects for a household
- Designated amounts worth of books and tools for trade, business, or professions
Keep Reading: 5 Tax Law Changes for 2016 You Need to Know
Jamie Young contributed to this article.