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.

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