Can Child Support Take Your State Tax Return Legally?

Back child support can be taken from federal and state tax return amounts.

Paying child support is not a choice, but is the responsibility of both parents, and every state child support agency will help a custodial parent make an irresponsible parent pay back child support in any way possible. To enforce this legal obligation, a child support order is often needed, and in some cases the order needs to be enforced by garnishing the state and federal income tax refund from the noncustodial parent. Parents who are owed back child support should contact their state office of child support enforcement, which in turn coordinates payment or garnishment of wages or federal and state income tax returns with other federal agencies.


Child Support Order

A child support order has to be in place for garnishment of state and federal income tax return funds to occur. This legal order is usually solicited by the state child support agency. Custodial parents who are owed back child support need to submit an application to their state child support agency to get the payments enforced.


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State and Federal Tax Return Garnishment

Even when you are in agreement with your monthly child support payment and are currently making those payments, you may have your state and federal tax return garnished. If you are in arrears and owe back child support of at least $150 when the custodial parent receives AFDC, or $500 when she doesn't, and you are at least three months behind on payments, the child support office will take your state and federal income tax return. For instance, if you have a payment of $500 a month and are behind $1,500, the child support agency can garnish your state and federal income tax because your debt is over $500 and is three months worth behind. However, if you pay the same $500 a month and are behind $1000, they can't garnish it because you have not met the legal three month arrears amount. Be aware, however, that this regulation can vary slightly in each state.


Needed Information

To enforce a garnishment rule, paternity needs to be established and important personal information must be known. The child support agency will need to establish the noncustodial parent's Social Security number, his assets, place of employment and annual income. Once this information has been established the noncustodial parent will be contacted and a payment plan will be established. Only as a last recourse will a child support agency contact the Internal Revenue Service to collect back child support of at least $750.


No Child Support Owed

As with all government agencies, the child support agency can make mistakes and has been known to garnish state or federal income tax returns when no child support is owed. In these cases you should contact the child support agency to clear the matter up and have the money credited towards future child support payments if it cannot be returned to you. Over-payments can occur and need to be credited to your child support account.



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