Your federal tax refund cannot be taken unless the Treasury Department receives a garnishment request from the I.R.S., the Department of Education, or a child support collection agency. Your tax refund can be intercepted for debts relating to child support, federal debts (such as federal student loans) and a few other types of debts, but not private debts. This is true even if a judgment is entered against you. However, once your refund is deposited into your bank account, they can garnish your bank account. This is, of course, for your federal refund; you may wish to check with an attorney in your state regarding any state refunds, as well as any local laws regarding garnishment.
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Child Custody Lawyer
There are a variety of situations that the government can take or keep your state or federal tax returns. Private companies with judgments cannot. They may however levy your bank accounts. If that occurs then any monies deposited to your bank account are fair game. This would include a direct deposit federal or state refund.
Estate Planning Attorney
I have to agree with the above attorneys. It is difficult to directly garnish the federal tax refund, but a creditor can take it after the amount lands in your individual bank account. I noticed however, that you do not specify whether this is a federal or state refund. Often, an individual will have a state refund taken by the state and applied against a prior tax liability in the same state - such practice is commonplace and perfectly legal.
In any event, you should get with a CPA or tax attorney in your state to discuss the specific facts related to your situation.
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If someone has a private judgment against you they can not take your tax refund. Once the money is received by you they can attempt to collect it.
Any individual seeking legal advice for their own situation should retain their own legal counsel as this response provides information that is general in nature and not specific to any person's unique situation. Circular 230 Disclaimer - Advice given in this response cannot be used to eliminate penalties with the IRS or any other governmental agency.