Frequently Asked Questions

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  • When is a child support case eligible for the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program?

    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.

    Check with your child support agency for more information.

  • How does the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program work?

    State child support agencies submit (certify), through OCSE to the Department of Treasury, the names, Social Security numbers, and amounts of past-due support of people who are behind in their payments.

    A noncustodial parent whose support debt meets the criteria for Federal Offset or Passport Denial will receive a Pre-Offset Notice that 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 Federal Tax Refund Offset, Administrative Offset, Passport Denial, and actions the child support agency may take to enforce a support obligation. It also includes information about how to contest the debt amount.

    The actual amount that Treasury 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.

    When Treasury processes tax refunds, it identifies those who owe past-due support and intercepts all or part of the tax refund. Treasury forwards the intercepted or offset funds through OCSE to the state child support agency to pay the past-due support.

    At the time of the Federal Tax Refund Offset, Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service mails a Notice of Offset to the noncustodial parent stating that all or part of their federal tax refund has been intercepted because of the support debt. The notice explains to contact the local child support agency for further information.

    The state that submitted the case typically receives money from a tax refund offset within two to three weeks. 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.

  • My child is no longer a minor. Will the state child support agency still submit my debt for Federal Tax Refund Offset?

    Yes.  Effective October 1, 2007, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 allows states to submit cases for debts regardless of the child's age.

  • As the noncustodial parent, what happens if I have remarried and part of the income tax refund belongs to my new spouse?

    Depending on state laws regarding community property, the IRS may intercept all or part of your or your spouse's share of the federal tax refund to pay your support debt.

    If you and your new spouse (called a non-obligated or "injured" spouse) file a joint income tax return, your spouse may be able to get back his or her share of the refund. To claim their portion of any refund due, your spouse may file an Injured Spouse Allocation of a Joint Return (Form 8379) with the IRS. The IRS encourages an injured spouse to file the claim at the same time the tax return is filed.

    Check with your child support agency for more information.

  • How does the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program handle interstate cases?

    Usually 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.

  • How does the Passport Denial Program work?

    The Passport Denial Program helps child support agencies enforce repayment of debts from noncustodial parents who owe or have owed at least $2,500 in past-due support. A noncustodial parent whose support debt meets the criteria for certification receives a Pre-Offset Notice that explains the process. This notice includes the amount of past-due support owed at the time of mailing and information about the Passport Denial Program, as well as information on the Federal Tax Refund and Administrative Offset programs.

    States submit case information of noncustodial parents who meet the criteria for passport denial to OCSE. When the past-due support exceeds $2,500, OCSE will automatically forward the noncustodial parent’s name to the State Department for passport denial unless the state requested that OCSE exclude the noncustodial parent from the Passport Denial Program.

    The noncustodial parent is not removed from the Passport Denial Program, even if their arrearages fall below the $2,500 threshold, until one of the following occurs:

    • The submitting state specifically requests removal
    • The noncustodial parent’s support debt amount is reduced to zero
    • The case is deleted

    When an individual applies for a passport, the State Department will deny the application based on the passport denial certification. The State Department will send a notice to the noncustodial parent explaining that the passport was denied because of past-due support. The notice informs the applicant to contact the appropriate state child support agency for more information.

  • What steps should I take if the State Department has denied my passport because of past-due support?

    You must contact your child support agency to make satisfactory arrangements to pay your past-due support. If more than one state reported your name to the Passport Denial Program, you must reach an agreement with all states involved before your passport hold is released.

    Once you have paid your past-due support in full or reached a satisfactory payment agreement, the state(s) will request that OCSE remove your name from the Passport Denial Program. After the State Department has processed the withdrawal request from OCSE and cleared its system, you may contact the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 or make an appointment at a regional passport agency to complete the process.

    Check with your child support agency for more information.

  • Who do I contact if I know the location of a non-paying parent?

    If you know where a non-paying parent is living, you may be able to submit information anonymously through your state’s child support website or through the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s website.

  • What is the role of the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement?

    The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) works with states, tribes, local offices, employers, nonprofit groups, other federal offices, and other governments to secure financial support for children.

    The role of OCSE is to:

    • Help state and tribal child support programs follow federal law
    • Provide technical assistance and training in using tools to
      • Locate parents
      • Establish parentage
      • Set child support orders
      • Collect payments
    • Assess how well states and tribes are processing cases and collecting payments
    • Answer public inquiries
    • Provide outreach materials for parents, child support professionals, and employers
    • Gather and share information about promising practices in child support
    • Fund grant opportunities for research in program improvement
    • Serve as the central authority for international child support cases

    States have varying guidelines on some aspects of child support, but federal law outlines certain standards for all states, like mandatory medical support for children and income withholding for noncustodial parents.

    OCSE does not have direct access to case information and it does not collect payments directly from parents.

    Learn more about OCSE.

     

  • How can I get help with parenting time or enforcing visitation so I can see my children?

    States administer the Access and Visitation Program to help noncustodial parents see their children. Services vary by state, but may include mediation, counseling, education, development of parenting plans, supervised visitation, safe exchange services, and development of guidelines for visitation and alternative custody arrangements. In addition to the Access and Visitation Program, many states and local governments have resources and procedures for helping parents with parenting time.

    Check with the Access and Visitation Program contact in your state for more information.

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