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Can your tax refund be garnished for unpaid hospital bills?

West Columbia, SC |
Attorney answers 3


If the hospital gets a judgment against you, it can seek to attach any assets that you have, such as a bank account. It doesn't actually "garnish" the income tax refund but rather attaches any funds that you deposit into a bank account. You should try to reach a settlement with the Hospital, and make monthly payments, if possible.


I agree with my colleague’s advice. The hospital will not be able to seize your tax return or to garnish your wages. SC does not have a statutory vehicle for judgment creditors to do these things. Once judgment has been secured by the hospital, they can pursue you in other ways, such as seizing your vehicle or other assets, trying to seize bank accounts. If you own real estate, the judgment is a lien against any real estate you own in the county where the judgment is docketed. If they issue execution and it is returned “Nulla Bona” or no goods/no property found, the creditor can bring you before the court for an asset examination. In that case, you are brought before the court under oath and answer questions about what you own, what you make, debts, assets and liabilities etc…

If you owe it, the best course is to set up a payment arrangement with the hospital. Most are extremely cooperative when working with repayment from patients. If you let it get to a collection agent, in my experience, you will have a more difficult time. The collectors generally are far less amenable when trying to work out a payment plan. Good luck.

I hope this information is helpful.

David Haar, Esq.
Spirakis & Haar, PA
Myrtle Beach, SC

* *This is general advice; please consult with a local attorney about the specifics of your situation as everybody's circumstances vary and laws may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. No attorney client relationship has been formed by the providing of this advice.


I respectfully disagree, but only if the Hospital is a participant in the set-off debt collection program run by the State's department of revenue as authorized in chapter 56 of title 12 of the SC Code. This specifically authorizes the department of revenue to garnish tax returns for participating agencies, such as public hospitals.

12-56-50. Department to assist in collection of account or debt by setoff of any refunds due to debtor.

Subject to the limitations contained in this chapter, the department, upon request, shall render assistance in the collection of any delinquent account or debt owing to any claimant agency by setting off any refunds due the debtor from the department by the sum certified by the claimant agency as delinquent debt.

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