Tax Refund Offset – Tax Topic 203

offsetDo you have a tax refund offset or Tax Topic 203 appearing when you check the WMR?

Topic 203 – Refund Offsets for Unpaid Child Support, Certain Federal and State Debts, and Unemployment Compensation Debts

Recently the topic of a tax refund offset came up in our forum.  There seems to be a lot of questions about what the IRS can take from a tax refund, and how it all works.  So, after doing a little research for some answers, here’s what we’ve come up with so far. First, the department that actually handles the offsets is Financial Management Services (FMS).

FMS is responsible for collecting delinquent debts and forwarding them to the agency to which they are owed. In most cases, FMS will send a letter prior to the offset to notify you that your refund is in danger of being offset. The letter includes both the name and Social Security number of the taxpayer for which the refund is being offset, as well as the organization to which the offset is being forwarded and the amount of the offset. If you do not receive the letter, however, call FMS to inquire as to the status of your income tax.

The phone number you should use to find out if you have an offset is: 800-304-3107.  I called this number myself just to see how it works.  Basically it will ask you for your social security number and run a search to see if there are any debts or offsets against you.  The message also states that the hotline is updated daily. If you’d like more information on the FMS, this is the link that was used for the above information: How to Check Your Income Tax Offset Refund Amount.

So, now that we have a better understand of who collects any offsets, you may be wondering what exactly could be taken from your tax refund.  The following list of was found here:

What Debts Can Be Taken From Your Federal Taxes?

Federal Debts The IRS pays itself first, so federal tax debts take precedence over other types of debts when it comes to offsetting your tax refund. If you failed to pay taxes due in previous years or you owe money to the IRS for any reason, the agency will partially or fully offset your refund to collect these funds.

Non-tax Federal Debts If you are up-to-date on your federal taxes, but you owe money to any other federal agency, the IRS can take money from your tax refund to satisfy these debts. Federal agency non-tax debts include past due or defaulted student loan payments, payments on HUD loans and any fines, penalties or fees due to any federal department. If you’ve accepted overpayments or fraudulent payments on Social Security or disability benefits or other federal insurance programs, these debts may also cause your refund amount to be reduced.

Child Support Any past-due child support payments may be taken out of your tax refund. Typically, the federal tax offset programs kicks in if you owe more than $150 in state-assigned tax support payments or more than $500 in child support payments to an individual, such as your child’s custodial parent. If the amount of the past due child support exceeds your
refund, the IRS may continue to garnish your refund for multiple years until the debt has been satisfied.

State Taxes If you owe state income taxes to any state, whether you still live there or not, the IRS can offset your refund to take care of these debts. The government can claim this money even if you have a payment plan in place with the state that you owe money

Unemployment Compensation The IRS is also authorized to deduct funds from your tax refund check to cover fraudulent or unpaid unemployment compensation. For example, if you
once owned a business and failed to pay your unemployment insurance as required by the law, the government may withhold your refund to cover these missed or late payments. Even if you were never an employer, but you accepted fraudulent or double worker’s compensation payments as an employee or former employee, your refund may be adjusted to cover these payments. Pleased keep in mind that this list may not include everything, but in general gives a pretty good idea of the types of debts that can be taken.  If you have any concerns that your tax refund may be offset for a debt, your best bet is to call the number above for
FMS and see.

Best of luck to everyone this year!

POST YOUR ACTUAL TAX REFUND EXPERIENCE HERE: This is a “user to user” site and the primary mode of support is peer-to-peer, meaning users helping other users. Admin and moderators are not always present or may not have answers to questions. Users becomes more informed when they are here often to read and comment. We call them Top Contributors. We are not a group of experts, merely taxpayers who have learned more than we ever wanted to know about taxes.

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Anonymous

    Its so sad i owe over 1000 of child support to the father of my child and she has been in the Philippines for about 4years now and he is here in hawaii. And he is enjoying his freedom here while my daughter is being watched by someone else while he receives the her child support money from me and doest give her nothing. And he took her there without my permission..

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  2. Anonymous

    @Confused_101010: I had approval bar and a ddd on Wmr the other day and now it has changed to offset message. Says my entire refund has been applied to student loan.. So sad

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  3. Confused_101010

    So I have a question that may can be answered here. In july of 2015 i filed bankruptcy. On some of the things i filed bankruptcy on had to be sent to irs. I got a letter back in September stated that owed the irs from my 2013 tax return. Now from hearing other people talk i was told that they will take my state to pay help pay down my amount to the irs. Well i got my state refund back last week. looked on where is my refund today and had a direct deposit date for the 2/10. it doesn’t mention my offset to the irs. So i guess my question is how long does it take the irs to offset my refund and will i in fact get a refund this tuesday?

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  4. Vachic01

    @Anonymous: how do you file a hardship? My bars finally moved and I see tax topic 203. Just found out I’m in default on my student loans, thought I was in forbearance. Whether I should or not I’m totally depending on this refund. I’m 8 months pregnant and been out of work for a month. And I’m totally freaking out over here!

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  5. Anonymous

    I fiked hard ship last year to get my refund back from an offset now this year i have kept my student loans out of default and that same message of tax topic 203 is why

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  6. Nayip

    Last year i was in offset with dept. Of education and the took my entire refund i just called the offset program and i dont have eny offset or debts. I had been paying off the debt will i receive my refund this year?

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  7. Jason

    I filed my taxes on feb. 5, 2015. on feb. 4th my student loans were consolidated and fed loan took over them paying off Texas gauranteed. They have no more of my student loans. However my tax refund is due to be direct deposited this week but I have a offset for Texas guaranteed who have no bearing on my loan anymore. They have been paid but I believe their system is not updated and they are due to receive my refund. What can I do?

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  8. lesle

    Thanks for this info. I feel a lot better now that I called the number. It is taking forever for my taxes but no offsets so its just taking a long time.

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