Can Your Social Security Benefits Be Garnished—and for What?

Alimony, Child Support or Restitution:

Social Security benefits can be withheld to enforce your legal obligation to pay child support, alimony or restitution. State laws determine a valid garnishment order. By law, current and continuing monthly benefits can be garnished. Retroactive adjustments are not made.

You cannot appeal to Social Security for implementing garnishment orders. If you disagree with the garnishment, you need to contact an attorney where the court issued the order.

Delinquent Taxes:

The Department of the Treasury can withhold Social Security benefits to collect overdue federal tax debts. It can use a Notice of Levy to collect overdue federal taxes under section 6334(c) of the Internal Revenue Code; or The Federal Payment Levy Program to collect overdue federal taxes.

This allows the Department of Treasury to withhold up to 15 percent of your monthly Social Security benefits until you repay the debt.

You cannot appeal the reduction of a Social Security benefit payment under tax levy to Social Security. You would need to Contact the Internal Revenue Service at 1-800-829-7650 to discuss any appeal rights.

Delinquent Non-Tax Debts:

The Department of the Treasury can withhold Social Security benefits to collect delinquent non-tax debts owed to other federal agencies under the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-134). The Department of the Treasury controls this activity and will contact you if you owe a non-tax debt.

Social Security has no control over this reduction of Social Security benefits, and there is no appeal available under the Social Security Act. If you have questions in this situation, you need to contact the Department of the Treasury at 1-800-304-3107.

Posted by Fairfax Virginia Disability Attorney, Sheri R. Abrams, www.sheriabrams.com