The IRS can seize your spouse’s vehicle if the car is community property. Or, they can seize it if your spouse is jointly liable for the tax debt.
If your spouse is not liable for the tax debt, and you don’t live in a community property state, the IRS cannot seize your spouse’s car or any other asset in his or her name.
There are nine states in the US where community property laws are in effect. So, when a couple gets married, any assets purchased during the marriage become marital assets. That happens even if only one party’s name is on the deed. Florida is not one of the community property states. But, if your primary residence is in one of the community property states, the laws of your primary residence state will prevail.
For example, if your primary home is in California, a community property state, any vehicle purchased in your spouse’s name is still marital property. That means, if the IRS goes after you for a tax debt, they can seize your spouse’s car to settle the debt.
Tax debts, like other types of debt, are attached to the individual(s) who are legally liable for them. If you and your spouse are legally liable for the tax debt in question, the IRS will go after assets in both of your names, including your cars.
The Reality of Asset Seizure
The IRS has a list of assets that it can legally seize to settle a tax debt. Vehicles are on that list as they are deemed unnecessary for life or work. But, IRS agents have discretion when it comes to which assets they seize.
If you receive notice that the IRS intends to seize your car or your spouse’s car, contact a tax attorney for help.