The Treasury Department is authorized to offset a taxpayer’s tax refund to satisfy certain debts. A spouse who believes that his or her portion of the refund should not be used to offset the debt that the other spouse owes may request a refund from the IRS.
If an individual owes money to the federal government because of a delinquent debt, the Treasury Department’s Financial Management Service (FMS) can offset that individual’s tax refund (and certain other federal payments) to satisfy the debt. The debtor will be notified in advance of the offset.
A taxpayer’s refund may be reduced by FMS and offset to pay:
- Past-due child support
- Federal agency non-tax debts
- State income tax obligations, or
- Certain unemployment compensation debts owed a state.
FMS advises taxpayers by written notice of an offset. FMS has explained that the notice will reflect the original refund amount, the taxpayer’s offset amount, the agency receiving the payment, and the address and telephone number of the agency. FMS will notify the IRS of the amount taken from your refund.
If a taxpayer filed a joint return and is not responsible for the debt of his or her spouse, the taxpayer may request his or her portion of the refund by filing Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, with the IRS. Form 8379 may be filed with the original return or by itself after the taxpayer is aware of the offset.
The IRS has instructed taxpayers filing Form 8379 by itself to attach a copy of all Forms W-2 and W-2G for both spouses, and any Forms 1099 showing federal income tax withholding to Form 8379. Failure to attach these items may result in a delay in processing by the IRS.
The IRS has reported on its website that it generally processes Forms 8379 that are filed after a joint return has been filed in approximately eight weeks. The timeframe for processing a Form 8379 that is attached to a joint return is approximately 11 weeks (14 weeks if the joint return is filed on paper).