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Can social security garnish my wages and take my tax refund?

Bayshore, NY |
Attorney answers 4


Social security has a great many tools they can utilize to seek overpayment. There is a legal process that has to be followed. You would be notified if they sought to go through the process. You should consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction. Best wishes.

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Maybe. The federal Department of Treasury coordinates information about various federally-related debts and benefits, including Social Security benefits and federal tax refunds. If the same social security number has both an obligation to Social Security for an overpayment and is due a refund on federal taxes all or part of that refund is at risk of being retained to satisfy the overpayment.

Social Security can seek a judgement to enforce a debt via garnishment of wages or state tax returns but you should receive additional notice of any pending action in state or federal court before this can happen. This pursuit may or may not happen depending on how large the overpayment is and the circumstances that led to the overpayment (fraud or inadvertent, etc.)

You can use the Social Security process to appeal the overpayment if still within certain timelines, you also may ask for a waiver on collection of the overpayment (these forms are available from It would be prudent to consult with an attorney in your area on these matters. You could contact you local legal aid services organization, local or state bar association or NOSSCR (attorneys who work on Social Security matters) for a referral attorneys near you who offer free or low cost initial consultations.

Disclaimer Information on this site is provided by Brian Scott Wayson as general information, not legal advice, and use of this information does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions about your specific situation, please call an attorney.


My colleagues' advice is very good. Seeking a waiver of the overpayment and other than some time, involves no cost. Even if they deny the waiver, you may work out acceptble repayment terms.

You may contact your local city, county or state bar association to see if they have a lawyer referral program, or you may contact the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (NOSSCR) for the name and email address or telephone number of attorneys in your area. Most attorneys who do any amount of Social Security work are members of NOSSCR and provide a free initial consultation. In any event, no attorney may charge a fee for work on a social security claim until it has been approved by Social Security. The fee limit is a maximum of 25% of past due or back due benefits you are owed, and many lawyers charge less than the full 25%, and the money is not paid until your claim has been approved.

The telephone number for the lawyer referral service of NOSSCR is 1-800-431-2804. NOSSCR's website is

Good luck to you!
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The exact answers to questions like this require more information than presented. The answer(s) provided should be considered general information. The information provided by this is general advice, and is not legal advice. Viewing this information is not intended to create, and does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. It is intended to educate the reader and a more definite answer should be based on a consultation with a lawyer. You should not take any action that might affect your claim without first seeking the professional opinion of an attorney. You should consult an attorney who can can ask all the appropriate questions and give legal advice based on the exact facts of your situation. The general information provided here does not create an attorney-client relationship.


For a Social Security overpayment, SSA can ask IRS to take your tax refund. SSA does not have to go to any court to do that. SSA regulations provide:

"We will use the Department of the Treasury tax refund offset procedure to collect overpayments that are certain in amount, past due and legally enforceable, and eligible for tax refund offset under regulations issued by the Department of the Treasury. We will use these procedures to collect overpayments only from individuals who are not currently entitled to monthly Social Security benefits under title II of the Act. We will refer an overpayment to the Department of the Treasury for offset against tax refunds no later than 10 years after our right to collect the overpayment first accrued."

It sounds as if you have already been notified of a Social Security overpayment. Within the first 60 days of getting the overpayment letter, you can ask for a reconsideration on the amount and/or fact of the overpayment. At any time, you can ask for waiver of the overpayment. For waiver to be granted, you have to show that you were not at fault in helping cause the overpayment and that you cannot afford to repay it.

SSA does not garnish wages to get overpayments repaid. SSA can, however, recoup the overpayment from any later Social Security benefits for which you might qualify, for example, retirement benefits.

This communication does not establish an attorney-client relationship. This communication offers general information based on the limited facts set out in the question, and does not constitute the giving of legal advice. For specific legal advice, consult an attorney in your state who is knowledgeable in this area of law.

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