No, they cannot garnish your income tax refund. If they tell you they can or will, then they are in violation of the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") and/or other state laws protecting consumers, depending on whether the caller is working for the original creditor or a collection agency. You should be aware, however, that internet loan companies use extremely aggressive tactics to collect on accounts because of the way they operate; they rarely provide physical addresses and the phone numbers that their collectors call from are often untraceable, thereby making it difficult to report them to law enforcement or sue them for violating the law. In the case of American Web Loan, they claim to be wholly owned by the Otoe-Missouria tribe of Indians and that they are operating solely within the boundaries of the reservation. This is common with Internet loan companies and it means that they will claim that they are not required to abide by US laws and therefore will use whatever tactics necessary to collect on their debts. The best advice I can give you is to negotiate a payoff or settlement with them if you can. If not, ignore their tactics as they are usually just empty threats.
They cannot garnish anything without a judgment
Kazerouni Law Group, APC is a law firm concentrating its efforts in the area of consumer law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq. (“FDCPA”), and California's Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, California Civil Code §§ 1788-1788.32 ("Rosenthal Act"). Our lawyers are specially trained in the Federal FDCPA, Consumer Defense, and other consumer related matters. Our goal is to protect you against unfair, deceptive and abusive debt collection practices. Creditors, professional debt collectors, and attorneys who violate the law are subject to paying damages, statutory penalties, and the consumer's attorneys fees and costs. If you feel you have been abused, deceived or treated unfairly, you may need a lawyer. We can be reached at 800-400-6808, or through one of the evaluation forms on this or at our own website at www.kazlg.com. The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as forming an attorney-client relationship. No attorney-client relationship between the reader and Abbas Kazerounian has been formed. If you are in the State of California and would be interested in a formal free consultation either visit Kazerouni Law Group, APC website at www.kazlg.com or call me toll free at 800-400-6808.
Typically, you can only have your tax refund intercepted by a government creditor, for things such as overpayment of benefits, child support and student loans. Once a refund check hits your bank account, it enjoys no special protection. I am posting a link to a general description of property that is exempt under the laws of each of the 50 states. For additional information, take a look at state laws, usually posted on the state government website. Hope this perspective helps!