Things You Should Know About The Federal Tax Refund Offset Program For Collecting Child Support Arrears

Posted on: 29 January 2016

When you are relying on receiving child support payments to pay your bills and feed your kids, life can get hard when these payments do not arrive. There are a variety of steps you can take if this happens to you, and one of them involves signing up to intercept your ex-spouse's tax return. While you can do this on your own, it is often easier to hire a family attorney to assist you. Here are several things to know about this program.

What It Is

This program is called the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program, and it is designed for the purpose of allowing a parent to collect child support from a parent that is not making on-time payments. It began in 1981, but was designed only to help single parents that were on government assistance. In 1984, the program changed to allow anyone to use it if they were having trouble collecting child support.

To qualify for this program, the person who owes you child support must owe at least $150. If this is the case, you can file a form with the government, and the government will notify this person.

When he or she files a tax return and is expecting a refund, the government will intercept the refund and will send it to you. This can be a great way to get child support money owed to you; however, there are times using this program will not be helpful.

The Pros And Cons Of This Program

This tax refund offset program tends to work best when a person works for someone and receives a normal paycheck. When this is the case, the person's employer will withhold taxes from the check, and the person may be entitled to a tax refund at the end of the year. As long as your spouse gets a tax refund and owes money, you may be able to use this program to get the money you are entitled to.

There are times when this method does not work well, though. A good example of this is if the person who owes the child support does not receive a tax refund. For example, if your ex is self-employed and does not take regular paychecks, he or she may owe money at tax time. If he or she does not get a tax refund, there will be nothing to intercept.

The other time it does not work well is if your ex-spouse catches on. Keep in mind, the Department of Treasury is required by law to notify the person about this. If your ex receives this notification and wants to avoid losing his or her tax refund, he or she could change the withholding with his or her employer. If your spouse claims fewer withholdings, he or she will get a bigger paycheck each week and a lower tax refund check. This is a common way spouses avoid getting their tax returns intercepted.

In addition, if your ex is remarried and files a joint return, you will not be entitled to the entire refund check even if he or she owes you for the entire amount of his or her refund. In this situation, your ex would have the right to file an injured spouse allocation. This would allow the income from your ex's new spouse to be excluded from the tax interception.

If you are struggling because of a lack of child support payments, you may want to consider using this program too. A family lawyer can help you determine if this is a good option to use, and your lawyer can also recommend other options too. To learn more, contact a family law attorney today.


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