Can Federal Tax Refunds Be Garnished for Child Support?
- The Child Support Enforcement Program is a federal program that works with state and local authorities in an effort to enforce child support payments. Each state is required to have a Child Support Enforcement Office (CSEO), which handles collection of child support at the local level. Parents who owe child support are expected to make monthly payments through their local CSEO. Often, these payments are made via automatic deduction from the parent's paycheck.
- When a parent owing child support fails to pay, a CSEO can use the various means at its disposal to collect. If a parent ordered to pay child support neglects to set up a payment plan or fails to make payments, a CSEO can garnish wages, place liens on real property and use what is referred to as a state and/or federal tax refund offset. The federal tax refund offset is used for past-due amounts of $500 or more.
- To get a non-paying parent's federal tax refund garnished, the parent to whom child support is owed must contact her local CSEO and assist by giving information about the non-paying parent's income and whereabouts. If it's established that the non-paying parent owes $500 or more in past-due support, the CSEO works with federal authorities and the Internal Revenue Service to "intercept" federal tax refunds.
- Where a parent has had to rely on state assistance programs --- such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families --- due to the failure of the other parent to make child support payments, federal tax refunds can be garnished, even if the non-paying parent owes less than $500.