Tax Refund Offset

Questions for…

Noncustodial parents

Custodial parents

General questions

What is the tax refund offset program?
The tax refund offset program collects past-due child support payments from the tax refunds of noncustodial parents. When a noncustodial parent owes past-due child support, the amount that is past due may be certified to the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) for tax refund offset. If spousal support is included in the child support order, the amount certified to these agencies may also include past-due spousal support.

When a case is eligible for tax refund offset, the noncustodial parent will receive a Special Notice (PDF) showing the amount of past-due support as of a given date (usually late August). If the noncustodial parent is due to receive an income tax refund from either the federal IRS or New York State DTF, all or part of the tax refund may be offset to pay the past-due support.

The actual amount deducted from the tax refund may differ from what is shown in the Special Notice because of changes in the past-due amount after the Special Notice is mailed.

A noncustodial parent's federal and/or state income tax refund may be offset even if he or she is paying child support when the case is certified.
When is a case eligible for tax refund offset?
Federal IRS:  For federal income tax refunds, a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) case is eligible when the noncustodial parent owes past-due support of at least $150. A non-TANF case is eligible when at least $500 is past due.

New York State DTF:  For New York State income tax refunds, any case (TANF or non-TANF) is eligible when the noncustodial parent owes past-due support of at least $50 and the amount is delinquent for at least 2 months.
When will a tax refund offset payment be applied to my child support account?
If you are the noncustodial parent, you will receive a letter from the federal government (Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Fiscal Service) or from the New York State DTF informing you that your tax refund has been offset and the amount of the offset. It will take about 10 weeks from the time you receive this letter for the payment to be applied to the account.

If you filed a joint tax return, it may take up to 6 months for a federal (IRS) offset payment to be applied to the account.
How is a tax refund offset payment applied to my child support account?
A tax refund offset payment is applied according to the source of the refund (federal or state) and the creditor for the past-due amount—the Department of Social Services (DSS) or the custodial parent.

Money received from a federal (IRS) tax refund offset is applied to the older debt first. If the custodial parent is receiving or has received temporary assistance benefits (TANF) and arrears owed to DSS accrued first, a federal tax refund offset payment will be applied to the DSS debt first. The custodial parent may not receive any payment from a federal (IRS) tax refund offset.

If the custodial parent is receiving temporary assistance, money received from a New York State (DTF) tax refund offset may also be paid to DSS first.

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Noncustodial parents

Will a tax refund offset be done in my case?
If your case is eligible, you will receive a Special Notice (PDF) that shows how much past-due support you owe as of the date in the Special Notice. You will also receive other forms and instructions that explain what you can do to prevent offset of your tax refund.
What can I do to keep my tax refund?
If you receive the Special Notice (PDF) that your case will be certified for tax refund offset, you can:
  1. Pay the amount in full before the date given in the Special Notice (usually in late October)
    If you decide to pay the full amount, call the Child Support Helpline at 1-888-208-4485 (TTY: 1-866-875-9975) to get the final amount you must pay. This amount may have changed after the Special Notice was mailed.

  2. Submit a written challenge
    If you have a valid reason to challenge tax refund offset, submit a written challenge as soon as possible. Valid reasons include the following:
    • You are not the person identified as owing support
    • There is no court order
    • The amount shown as due is wrong
    • You do not owe support
    Forms and instructions for a written challenge (PDF) are included with the Special Notice. The written challenge and all the required documentation to support your challenge must be submitted to the address on the Special Notice within 30 days of the date on the notice.
What if I can't pay the full amount by the date given?
Paying the full amount of your past-due support is the only way to stop an offset of your tax refund.
What is an injured spouse claim and how do I file it? (joint tax return)
If you file a joint return and you are not responsible for your spouse's child support debt but you are entitled to part of the income tax refund, you can request your share of the refund by filing the appropriate form with your federal or State tax return.

Federal (IRS) joint tax return:
Complete an injured spouse claim, Injured Spouse Allocation of a Joint Return Form 8379 (PDF), and submit it to the IRS when you file your tax return. Please visit the IRS site for more information about IRS Form 8379.

New York State (DTF) joint tax return:
Complete Form IT-280, Nonobligated Spouse Allocation (PDF) and submit it with your original return. Visit the New York State DTF site for more information about nonobligated spouse relief.
When will the tax refund payment be applied to my child support account?
You will receive a letter from the federal government (Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Fiscal Service) or from the New York State DTF informing you that your tax refund has been offset and the amount of the offset. It should take about 10 weeks from the time you receive this letter for the payment to be applied to the account.

If you filed a joint tax return, it may take up to 6 months for any federal (IRS) offset payment to be applied.
When will I receive a refund of an overpayment from tax refund offset?
Any refund due you should be processed approximately 10 weeks after you receive your letter from the federal government (Department of the Treasury) or from the New York State DTF saying your tax refund was offset.

If you filed a joint tax return, it may take up to 6 months.

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Custodial parents

Is my case eligible for tax refund offset?
Federal IRS:  For federal income tax refunds, a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) case is eligible when the noncustodial parent owes past-due support of at least $150. A non-TANF case is eligible when at least $500 is past due.

New York State DTF:  For New York State income tax refunds, any case (TANF and non-TANF) is eligible when the noncustodial parent owes past-due support of at least $50 and the amount is delinquent for at least 2 months.
When will I receive a payment from tax refund offset?
If the tax refund offset payment is from an individual tax return, it will take at least 10 weeks for the payment to be credited.

For a joint tax return, it may take up to 6 months for any federal (IRS) offset payment to be applied.

Note:  If you are receiving or have received temporary assistance benefits (TANF) and your case includes arrears assigned to the Department of Social Services (DSS), you may not receive any payment from a federal (IRS) tax refund offset.
Why didn't I receive the full amount of the tax refund offset payment?
  • Are you receiving or have you received temporary assistance benefits (TANF)?
  • Are any arrears in the case owed to the Department of Social Services (DSS)?
If so, a federal (IRS) tax refund offset payment may be paid to DSS first.

A New York State (DTF) tax refund offset payment may also be paid to DSS first.