Is there a way to reduce how much of my tax refund goes toward child support arrears?

by Rosemary Lamaestra, CPA, CFE | May 14, 2019
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Is there a way to reduce how much of my tax refund goes toward child support arrears? They normally take all of my refund, which usually isn't an issue. However, we are having financial hardships at this time. My family and I are almost homeless, I'm unemployed, and our vehicle broke down. If I could use just half of my refund and still apply the rest to my arrears, that would be great.

You most likely received a notice from the agency that administers child services stating they have the authority to attach your federal tax refund for past-due child support. Congress authorizes the Bureau of Fiscal Service (BFS) to conduct the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) to offset your liability.

You can contact the agency with which you have a debt to discuss your current financial situation.  Perhaps they can alter the payment plan or provide an alternative.

You mention your family and you are almost homeless. If part of your family includes a spouse, and you are filing a joint return, and if your spouse is not responsible for your debt, the spouse is entitled to request their portion of the refund back from the IRS. You may file a claim for this amount by filing Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation. There are several steps to this process, and I would recommend consulting a tax professional. Since you are already experiencing hard times, perhaps there is a tax professional in your area that would consider assisting you pro bono.

For more resources, check out PICPA’s Money & Life Tips, Ask a CPA, or CPA Locator.

Answered by: Rosemary Lamaestra, CPA, CFE, is a manager with RLB Accountants in Allentown, Pa.

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The responses are based on the limited information provided by the questioner and apply the laws and regulations at the time of posting. Other options could arise as rules and regulations may change over time, including but not limited to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. They are intended to provide general information, not specific accounting or tax advice; they are not intended or written to be used and cannot be used for the purpose of avoiding or evading taxes or penalties under the IRS code or regulations. Views expressed do not imply an opinion of the PICPA, its officers, directors, employees, or members.
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