Can a federal or state income tax refund be garnished?

UPDATED: Oct 28, 2011

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Can a federal or state income tax refund be garnished?

I have currently 2 credit cards with judgements against me; I cannot afford to pay either one. I will most likely have a wage garnishment attempted but I do not make enough money for my wages to be garnished. I have recently closed my bank account and am paying everything through cash or having someone else pay for me and I pay them. But early next year I will be doing my income taxes and will most likely receive a federal and state tax refund. I was wondering if that could be garnished or withheld from me for these debts (I won’t be direct depositing this money)?

Asked on October 28, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Connecticut


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

No, these refunds cannot be directly garnished for credit card debts.. A refund will be sent to the taxpayer and, other than the federal government, a creditor cannot seize such money.  However once these funds are received and deposited into a bank account, then if a creditor has a valid judgement against a debtor, the creditor can garnish such funds (in fact, they can garnish any other non-exempt funds has well).

Note: To the extent that you can do so, just be sure to keep your refund(s) out of your name after you get them. Not using directly deposited is a good first step.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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