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Can the IRS garnish only my wages from a joint tax return?

Houston, TX |

My ex-husband and I divorced in 2007. We established in the divorce decree that he was responsible for all back taxes. I just got a letter from the company I work for stating that the IRS is garnishing my wages for 2001, 2,3 and 4. I was in complete shock because I thought he had taken care of this and this is the first time I had heard anything about it. I called him and he told me that he was not being garnished. He said he needs to get the last few years filed and then will contact the IRS about an offer in compromise. Once he does this, will they remove the garnishment from my check or do I need to contact them? Also, what do I do if he doesn't resolve this? The IRS isn't leaving me enough money to pay my rent, etc. Thanks in advance!

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Attorney answers 5


In the IRS's eyes it doesn't matter what the divorce decree says, but that you are both liable for any joint tax liability. You should immediately contact a tax attorney who can get in touch with the IRS and try to avoid or delay your garnishment.

Andrew B Gordon

Andrew B Gordon is a CPA and attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois. The information provided here is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for a particular matter. This response does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult an attorney.


The divorce decree is an order regarding the agreement between you and your ex, the IRS is not a party to it and is not bound by it. If you have to pay the taxes, you may be entitled to reimbursement from your ex. Further, even if your ex enters into a payment plan or offer with the IRS, that does not stop the IRS from collecting from you any amount that has not been paid yet. You probably ought to contact a tax attorney to find out what your options are regarding the IRS collection activity against you.

This information is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be relied upon as legal advice. You should consult with an attorney with full disclosure of all facts and opportunity to consider all or alternative options.


If you owe taxes to the IRS, it can garnish your wages to collect. But there are payment options for you to avoid garnishment. As my colleagues pointed out, you need to settle this matter with your ex with the help of a competent attorney in your state.

This is not a legal advice or solicitation, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consult with an attorney. I work for Cardinal Risk Mangement and Cardinal Intellectual Property, IP service companies, but not law firms. I also am the president of Vepachedu Educational Foundation Inc., which is a non profit educational foundation. I also write cultural and scientific compliations for the foundation. I also teach at Northwestern university as a guest lecturer. I also provide some pro-bono guidance on immigration and other issues through Indian American Bar Association. I also have a contract with Cardinal Law Group, a law firm, for IP projects. All this information is on my profile at Avvo and also at Linkedin. Any views/opinions expressed in any context are my personal views in individual capacity only, and do not represent the views and opinions of any firm, client, or anyone else, and is not sponsored or endorsed by them in any way.


I concur with my colleagues as to the joint liability owed to IRS. However, hire a CPA or tax attorney to discuss "Innocent Spouse Relief" -- see enclosed link:
Also there is a program known as "Offer In Compromise" which may be a viable alternative.
Finally, given the taxes due are well past 3 years old you may want to speak with a Bankruptcy attorney as well so will add a tag for that in addition to the other tags I added that are more focused on your issues.

My answer is not intended to be giving legal advice and this topic can be a complex area where the advice of a licensed attorney in your State should be obtained.


I suggest hiring a tax lawyer, but if you filed a joint tax return then they can go after either one of you.