How to Find Out if Your Income Tax Refund Will Be Garnished?


Ever since the federal government legalized it, garnishment has turned out to be the best weapon in the arsenal of not just the usual credit companies, mortgage lenders, or medical providers but also the federal government. The federal government can garnish your wages without requesting a court order as a standard creditor would. And aside from your wages, the federal government can as well garnish your cherished tax refund. Say you owe a federal debt, is there any way to find out if your tax refund will be garnished?

The best way to find out if your income tax refund will be garnished is by calling the Bureau of the Fiscal Service (an affiliate of the Treasury Department) directly at this toll-free number: (800) 304-3107. Afterward, listen and do as requested.

Owing a debt can be unsettling. You can’t think straight. Anytime you are happy and think of your debt, the happiness fades, and you become solemn. There is also the anxiety that comes with predicting your creditor’s next move. What tactics will he adopt? Will he get me arrested? Or the most common of all: will my tax refund be garnished? Having these questions running cycles in your mind can wreak havoc on your health. To quell your curiosity, I’ll provide you with tips on how to determine if, indeed, your income tax refund will be garnished.

How Long Does It Take to Garnish a Bank Account?

How to Find Out if Your Income Tax Refund Will Be Garnished?

While taking out a loan is acceptable, refusing to pay it back isn’t. Of course, I am fully aware that not everyone decides not to pay back what they owe. Sometimes, financial hardship is to be blamed for people’s inability to settle their debt in due time. However, such an excuse remains invalid to most creditors who will adopt the necessary tactics to ensure that you pay what you owe.

One of those tactics, which I consider debtors bane, is garnishment. Garnishment can either come in the form of wage garnishment or bank account garnishment. In addition, your income tax refund can be garnished. But, not all creditors have the authority to garnish your income tax return. That said, we’ll be looking at who can garnish your income tax refund before visiting the question,” can the state take my federal tax refund?”

Who Can Garnish Your Income Tax Refund?

If you owe a few debts, and you are already receiving wage garnishment threats from your creditors, it makes sense to ask, “Who can garnish state tax refunds?” In order to know if your refund (if you are expecting one) is safe or not.

Contrary to what you may believe, a typical creditor, be it a credit company or a mortgage lender, doesn’t have the right to garnish your income tax refund. The federal government is the only entity that can garnish your income tax refund. If your creditor is threatening to garnish your refund, that means he is either bluffing or doesn’t know what he is saying.

Since the federal government is the only entity that can garnish your income tax return, wouldn’t it be nice to know how to find out if your income tax refund will be garnished or not?

Finding Out if Your Income Tax Refund Will Be Garnished:

The Treasury Department adopts a program regarded as the Treasury Offset Program (TOP), which allows the IRS to garnish tax refunds on behalf of the federal government, including state agencies to which taxpayers owe a debt. Finding out if your refunds will be garnished is as simple as a phone call.

Below are the steps to take:

Step 1:

Call the Bureau of Fiscal Service directly at this toll-free number: (800) 304-3107

Step 2:

Listen to the prerecorded message carefully and follow the instructions

Warning: Do not call on someone else’s behalf because it means you’ll be breaking federal law. The call center records the caller’s phone numbers.

Step 3:

Input your Social Security Number (SSN) when asked. The BFS will then proceed to search its database to determine if an offset against your debt is in place. Write down any information provided and the creditor agency that created the offset so that you can call if you have extra questions.

Note: New debts are included in the database daily, so if the recording says no offset was discovered, you may want to call again in a couple of days.

When Can Your Income Tax Refund Be Garnished?

Before asking the question, “will my tax refund be garnished?” you need to first have an insight into the things that could make the federal government garnish your income tax refund.

  • Back federal taxes
  • Past-due child and parental support
  • Unpaid state income tax
  • Federal agency debts other than taxes, such as student loans
  • Other debts owed to a state, including overpaid employment compensation

The federal government usually uses proceeds from your income tax refund to settle these debts. Thus, if you don’t want your income tax refund to be at the mercy of garnishment, ensure you settle all federal agency debt, debts owed to your state, etc.

How Does a Creditor Find Your Bank Account?

Will I Be Notified if My Tax Refund Is Garnished?

If your income tax refund will be garnished, you will receive a notice. The notice may come some weeks after the offset is inputted into the database. The notice will display your original refund amount, offset amount, and agency that the offset was paid to, including its address and phone number. If you get this notice and have concerns, contact the agency that got the offset directly.

No one likes to be caught on aware, especially if it involves our finances. Thus, to quell the possibility of being surprised by a garnishment, it makes sense to ask if you will be notified after your tax refund has been garnished.

Over the years, I have counseled people who have this great fear of having their tax refund garnished. One handsome-looking gentleman in his late thirties was asking if the garnishment can be stopped. He was shocked when I told him that it couldn’t be; it must happen. You cannot owe the federal government and expect not to pay one way or the other.

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