kidsAttaching Federal IncomeTax Refunds to Collect Back Child Support

What is Federal Tax Refund Offset?

The Federal Tax Refund Offset Program collects past due payments of child support from the tax refunds of parents who have been ordered to pay child support. The Program is a cooperative effort among the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), and State Government Child Support Enforcement agencies.

How does the program work?

Each year, state government agencies submit to the IRS the names, Social Security Numbers (SSN), and the amount of past due child support of people who are behind in their payments. When the IRS processes tax returns, it identifies returns of those who owe child support. If a refund is due, all or part of the refund is collected to offset past due child support payments.

What happens when a tax refund is offset?

If the parent who owes child support is due a refund, the amount of past due payments is taken out of the refund check and sent to OCSE and then to the State which submitted the case. In Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) cases, the State keeps the money to help pay for AFDC payments. In non-AFDC cases, the State gives the money directly to the parent and child. If the case is both AFDC and non- AFDC, the AFDC arrearages are paid first.

What cases are submitted for a tax refund offset?

Cases eligible for a tax refund offset are those cases that have delinquent child support orders. If the child support order includes an award for spousal support, the tax refund may also cover past due spousal support. For cases receiving AFDC, the amount owed by noncustodial parents must be at least $150; in non-AFDC cases, the amount must be at least $500. In all cases, the parent who owes support must be a 3 months behind in child support payments.

What kind of information wills the Child Support Enforcement Agency need in order to submit a case to IRS?

The noncustodial parent’s name, SSN, and

The amount of past due child support is the most critical pieces of information needed to submit a case to IRS. The State will also need to know the noncustodial parent’s address so that he/she can be notified that his/her name is being submitted to the IRS to offset the tax refund for past due child support. This offset notification provides an opportunity for the noncustodial parent to pay past due child support or disagree with the amount of money the CSE agency says is owed.

How do parents know if their cases qualify for or have been submitted for a tax refund offset?

States are required to submit all cases (both AFDC and non-AFDC) which meet the criteria for submittal. The State or local CSE agency may notify custodial parents that their case has been submitted for tax refund offset.

How long does it take to receive a collection?

IRS processes tax returns beginning in February through December. It takes 3 to 5 weeks from the time the IRS processes the return until the money is sent to the State. In non-AFDC cases, the State may hold the money for up to 6 months if it involves a joint return.

Is there a charge for filing a tax refund offset?

Some States have a charge for non-AFDC cases; others do not. States cannot charge more than $25 for this service.

What if the parent who owes a child support lives in another State?

This happens quite often. Regardless of where a parent who owes support lives in the United States, his or her tax return will be processed by the IRS through the same system.

What is the deadline for submitting a tax refund offset?Tax returns are filed only once a year, so timing is very important. Plan on contacting the State or local CSE agency as soon as possible to find out their deadline for submitting the names and SSNs of parents who owe child support. Then, the agency will determine whether the case should be submitted.

Does the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program really work?

Yes. Since 1982, almost 10 million tax refunds have been intercepted and over $10 billion has been collected. The average tax refund offset amount in 1995 was $721 in 2014 $4.2 billion. For more information about the Tax Refund Offset Program and other child support services, please call the State Child Support Enforcement Agency or write: Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children & Families Office of Child Support Enforcement 370 L’Enfant Promenade, SW Washington, DC 20447

The above information is from the OCSE website: http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cse/

 

Geraldine Jensen

Publisher and Editor of Families Online Magazine. Our experts provide warm, loving, and generous advice for you, your family and children, no matter their age -- infants, school age, 'tweens, and teenagers. Features include:Parenting, Ages and Stages of Child Development, Child Support, Cooking, Health, Children's Books, Nutrition, Christian Parenting, Relationships, Green-living, Education and School

Ms. Jensen is a leading advocate for families and children and was the founder and president of ACES, The Association for Children for Enforcement of Support.
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