The federal tax intercept act allows the IRS, in conjunction with the Financial Management Service within the Department of the Treasury, to withhold a taxpayer's refund to satisfy any past-due state and federal tax debts. The federal act also allows the federal government to withhold a taxpayer's income tax refund to pay unpaid child support obligations, government student loans and overpaid or inadvertently paid unemployment benefits. You can verify that an offset occurred by checking your offset notice or contacting the Financial Management Service. You can also contact the agency that initiated the offset.
File your tax returns and wait a few weeks to receive your refund check. The IRS typically sends refund checks within six weeks after acknowledging receipt for paper filings. However, if you filed electronically, the IRS typically sends refunds within three weeks after acknowledging your return. Amended returns can take eight to 12 weeks.
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Check your offset notice. If the FMS proceeds with an offset, it sends a notice to the taxpayer notifying him of the offset, whom to contact do dispute the offset, and the amount before and after the offset.
Contact the agency listed on your offset notice if you believe your offset mistakenly occurred.
Call the IRS Refund Hotline at 1-800-829-1954. You can also check your refund status electronically by using its "Where's My Refund?" system (see "Resources").
Give the IRS Refund Hotline representative your Social Security number, the amount of your refund from your tax return and your filing status, or provide them electronically.
You may also call the FMS if you do not receive the offset notice by calling its toll-free hotline at 1-800-304-3107.
If your spouse owed the debt, and you are not responsible for the debt, according to your state's property laws, you can request a partial refund by completing the Injured Spouse Allocation Form 8379.
You have the legal right to dispute any offset, but if the only reason for disputing your offset is that the FMS did not obtain your consent before proceeding with an offset, that is probably a legally insufficient reason for the agency to reverse the offset. The FMS and IRS do not need your consent to proceed with the offset. As such, your lack of consent is not a valid reason to challenge the offset.
- IRS.gov: Topic 203 - Refund Offsets: For Unpaid Child Support, And Certain Federal, State and Unemployment Compensation Debts
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Federal Offset Program User Guide
- Financial Management Service: Tax Refund Offset
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Federal Tax Refund Offset Program
- IRS.gov: Topic 152 - Refund Information
- IRS.gov: About "Where's My Refund?"
- IRS.gov: Get Refund Status