Building Your Business Business Taxes Intercepting Tax Refunds To Cover Unpaid Child Support How You Can Get the Federal Government to Help You By Jennifer Wolf Jennifer Wolf Twitter Jennifer Wolf is a former writer for The Balance, a PCI Certified Parent Coach, and a strong advocate for single moms and dads, covering financial and legal issues. learn about our editorial policies Updated on September 13, 2022 Fact checked by J.R. Duren In This Article View All In This Article Eligibility How the Program Works How to Make a Request Other Actions Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Photo: The Balance / Kelly Miller The tax refunds of individuals who owe back child support can be intercepted by the government through the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program. Key Takeaways The Federal Tax Refund Offset Program is designed to pay back child support via the tax refund of the parent who owes child support.State agencies work with the federal government to identify who qualifies for the program and how much money should be offset.It typically takes the state two to three weeks to receive back child support through the program. Eligibility for the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program Not all delinquent child support cases are eligible for the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program. In order for an individual's tax refund to be intercepted for unpaid child support through the program, certain minimums apply. If the child support recipient receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), child support must be at least $150 in arrears. If the recipient does not receive TANF assistance, child support must be at least $500 in arrears. Usually, the state where the custodial parent lives—the parent who is owed child support—submits the debt for the Federal Tax Refund Offset. If multiple states are involved, then each state must submit for the offset. Note The parent who is behind on payments will receive a separate notice for each state's debt and has the right to contest each state's debt amount. How the Program Works State child support agencies submit the names, Social Security numbers, and amounts of past-due support of people who are behind in their payments to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. The federal office then makes a list of those cases that are eligible for the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program. That list is submitted to the Treasury Department's Financial Management Service. The Treasury Department sends a pre-offset notice to let the parent who is behind on payments know that part or all of their federal tax refund is scheduled to be intercepted and sent to the child support recipient. The notice 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 the federal tax refund offset, passport denial, and other actions the child support agency may take to enforce a support obligation. It also includes information about how to contest the debt amount. The state that submitted the case typically receives money from a tax refund offset within two to three weeks if the tax return is non-joint. 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. Note The actual amount that the Treasury Department 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. How to Make a Request Pertaining to Your Case If you believe that your case should be eligible for the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program, or you suspect that the other parent has received their tax refund in error, contact your local Office of Child Support Enforcement. Other Actions for Getting Child Support When child support is not paid regularly, you can request that the Office of Child Support Enforcement help you take actions to collect monthly and past-due amounts. Other actions the federal government can pursue include wage garnishment, suspension of driver's licenses, levies on financial accounts, liens on property, and debt reporting to credit bureaus. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) How do I get my offest refund? Your state's Office of Child Support Enforcement notifies the Department of the Treasury that the non-custodial parent is behind on their payments and eligible for offset payments. Form there, the government process the non-custodial parent's tax return and, if there's a refund, it takes about two to three weeks for the Treasury to send your state the money. How long does it take to get my refund after an offset? Non-joint refunds take up to 30 days to arrive to you. Joint refunds can take up to six months to get to you. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. State of Hawaii Department of the Attorney General. "Federal Tax Refund Offset Program," Page 1. Department of Health and Human Services. "When Is a Child Support Case Eligible for the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program?" Department of Health and Human Services. "How Does the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program Work?" Department of Health and Services. "What Happens If Child Support Isn't Paid?"