Social Security Garnishment Rules
They can withhold Social Security benefits to enforce your legal obligation to pay child support, alimony or restitution. State laws determine a valid garnishment order. By law, they garnish current and continuing monthly benefits. They do not make retroactive adjustments.
You cannot appeal to Social Security for implementing garnishment orders. If you disagree with the garnishment, contact an attorney or representative 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
- 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. 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.
They have 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, contact Treasury staff at 1-800-304-3107.Laws that allow the garnishment and levy of Social Security benefits
Section 207 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 407) protects Social Security benefits from garnishment, levy or other withholdings by the federal government, except:
- To enforce child support and alimony obligations under Section 459 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 659)
- For certain civil penalties under the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act (18 U.S.C. 3613)
- With a Notice of Levy to collect overdue federal taxes under Section 6334(c) of the Internal Revenue Code
- Through the Federal Payment Levy Program to collect overdue federal taxes by levying up to 15 percent of each monthly payment until the debt is paid under Section 1024 of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-34)
- To withhold and pay another federal agency for a non-tax debt you owe to that agency according to the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-134)
You can choose for Social Security to withhold a percentage of your benefits to pay to the Internal Revenue Service to satisfy your federal income tax liability for the current year.If you receive a court-ordered garnishment change
You should go to your local Social Security office with a new court order that changes the garnishment of your Social Security benefits. You can use our Social Security Office locator to find a location nearby.
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