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Will/Can The IRS Take My Tax Refund If I Owe Child Support?

Updated on April 25, 2012

If you owe back child support and have an active child support case with a child support agency your tax refund will be intercepted and sent to the child support agency to be applied to your debt.

Even if you are making regular monthly payments your IRS refund will be taken. An IRS refund is considered a "windfall" meaning it is income not included in your normal living expenses. It is for this reason that even if you are making monthly payments on your child support debt your refund will still be taken and applied to your debt.

The idea is to pay down your child support as quickly as possible. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as once your past due debt is paid your monthly payment can be reduced to current child support only.

There are rare exceptions to this rule such as the court order specifically stating that IRS refunds are exempt from withholding. However, it must clearly state this in the order of child support. Even then, the IRS still may send your refund to the child support agency. In this case your state child support agency would have to manually refund the IRS money to you.

If you have such a stipulation in your child support order inform your child support worker so they can take the necessary actions on your case to get the money refunded to you. If you fail to alert the child support agency your IRS refund is exempt from withholding there is a chance the money will be sent to the custodial parent in error.

If you truly need your IRS refund for expenses such as repairing a vehicle or a loss of employment for example, you may be able to request what is a called a hardship return of your IRS refund. This is done through the child support agency and not the IRS. If you need to request a hardship return of your IRS refund contact the child support agency handling your case and ask what their policy is to make such a request.

Typically this will include proving financial hardship by providing repair bills, eviction notices etc and a letter explaining why you need your tax return. The child support agency will review your documents and make a decision. They may decide to return all or part of your refund if you prove a substantial financial hardship.

A hardship return of your IRS refund is usually only granted one time if at all. Therefore, if having your IRS refund intercepted causes you on-going financial hardship consider changing your withholding amount so that you owe a small amount or get a minimal refund at the end of the year.


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    • shuck72 profile image

      shuck72 2 years ago from Seattle

      Bummer, Jones, I would recommend calling your local child support office and asking if they have reported the debt to the treasury.

    • profile image

      Jones'n fo Monay. 2 years ago

      My ex got her tax refund last year....... PppfffffT!! Think I need to get MORE involved w/ Dept of Treasury. :-)

    • bankscottage profile image

      bankscottage 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Good hub. Informative.

      We see a fee people every year in our tax office that don't get their refunds because they owe child support or back taxes. Some are surprised that they don't get a refund others expected it.