Intercepting Tax Refunds For Child Support

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab
Read this in: Spanish / Español


About Intercepting Tax Refunds For Child Support

When a taxpayer who is delinquent on child support payments files a tax return, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may intercept the taxpayer’s refund to pay back child support arrears. The IRS has the ability to intercept any federal tax refund and use it to pay for any unpaid child support. The interception process begins when a state child support agency or a court orders the IRS to intercept the taxpayer's refund. The IRS will then review the taxpayer's account to determine if any refunds are due and if so, will forward the payment to the appropriate state agency. The taxpayer will receive a notice from the IRS informing them that their refund has been intercepted and that the amount has been applied to their child support debt.

When child support is not paid regularly, you can request that the Office of Child Support Enforcement help you take action to collect monthly and past-due amounts.

Other actions the federal government can pursue include wage garnishment, suspension of driver's licenses, levies on financial accounts, liens on property, and debt reporting to credit bureaus.

What You Need To Know About Child Support And Tax Refunds

The Federal Tax Refund Offset Program is designed to pay back child support via the tax refund of the parent who owes child support. State agencies work with the federal government to identify who qualifies for this program and how much money should be offset. It typically takes the state two to three weeks to receive back child support through the program.

  • State child support agencies submit the names, Social Security numbers, and amounts of past-due support of people who are behind in their payments to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.

  • The federal office then makes a list of those cases that are eligible for the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program. That list is submitted to the Treasury Department's Financial Management Service.

  • The Treasury Department sends a pre-offset notice to let the parent who is behind on payments know that part or all of their federal tax refund is scheduled to be intercepted and sent to the child support recipient. The notice explains the process and shows the amount of past-due support owed at the time of the notice.

  • The pre-offset notice includes information about the federal tax refund offset, passport denial, and other actions the child support agency may take to enforce a support obligation. It also includes information about how to contest the debt amount.

  • The state that submitted the case typically receives money from a tax refund offset within two to three weeks if the tax return is non-joint. If the tax refund offset is from a jointly filed tax return, the state may hold the money for up to six months before disbursing.

The actual amount that the Treasury Department deducts from the tax refund may differ from the amount on the Pre-Offset Notice based on updated activity on the support obligation. The state updates the debt amount regularly, but may not issue a new notice each time the debt amount changes.

For cases in the child support program, the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program collects past-due support payments from the tax refunds of parents who owe support. The child support agency will submit your case to the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program if it meets either of these criteria:

  • The custodial parent receives benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and the noncustodial parent owes at least $150 in arrears; or
  • The custodial parent does not receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits and the noncustodial parent owes at least $500 in arrears.

If the parent who owes support does not receive a tax refund, then there are no funds to intercept.

The state where the custodial parent lives submits the debt for Federal Tax Refund Offset. In cases where the noncustodial parent owes a support debt to more than one state, each state submits its case for offset. The noncustodial parent receives a separate notice for each state's debt and has the right to contest each state's debt amount.

Last Review and Update: Feb 06, 2023
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