Delinquent parents risk seizure of Federal tax rebate checks

Q: I heard that the Attorney General’s office can seize federal tax rebate checks from parents who are not making child support payments. How does this work?

A: The Federal Tax Refund Offset Program allows the Office of the Attorney General to seize tax refund and rebate checks from parents who are behind on their court-ordered child support payments. If you are working with the Office of the Attorney General on child support payments, my office will submit your case for IRS offset according to federally specified criteria. If the parent who owes child support is due a refund, the amount of past due payments is taken out of the refund check and sent to the Attorney General’s child support division. In Temporary Assistance to Needy Family (TANF) cases, the State keeps the money to help pay for TANF payments.

In non-TANF cases, the State gives the money directly to the parent and the child(ren).
Cases eligible for a tax refund offset are ones that have delinquent child support orders. For cases receiving TANF, the amount owed by non-custodial parents must be at least $150, and the parent who owes support must be at least three months behind in child support payments.

For non-TANF cases, the amount owed must be at least $500. The case must also involve a child who is less than 18 years of age, or an adult disabled child.

If the parent who owes child support does not file taxes, or is not due a refund or a rebate, there won’t be a collection to repay the child support.
This month, rebate checks resulting from President Bush’s tax reduction plan were intercepted along with IRS refund checks that are collected on a regular basis through-out the year. This year, of 456,957 names submitted, the Office of the Attorney General has collected $103.7 million in IRS rebate and refund checks involving 108,514 delinquent parents.

An estimated $3.3 million came from the intercepted rebate checks alone.

In addition to IRS interceptions, our office uses measures such as income withholding, license suspension and passport denial to compel non-custodial parents to pay.

In the last two years, child support collections by our Child Support Division have increased from $757 million in State Fiscal Year (SFY) 1998 to $1.029 billion in SFY 2000, a 36 percent increase in only two years. The $161 million increase from SFY 1999 to SFY 2000 is the largest dollar increase in child support collections in the history of the Texas program.

We expect to have another record setting year in SFY 2001 ending August 31.

Q: I have to pay school tax, county tax, income tax and nothing is left but bills. Child support is excessive if you have a wife and other children. How can you expect me to pay this?

A: While I appreciate your situation, you must understand that you have both a legal and moral obligation to all of your children, not just the ones in your new family.

State law outlines how much non-custodial parents are required to pay for child support. It is a standard percentage of your income based on the number of children involved. This is not an arbitrary decision meant to punish you.

I understand that you have a new family to support, but you can not turn your back on the children you owe child support to because your relationship with their mother did not work out.

All of your children, not just the ones you live with, need and deserve your support, both financial and emotional.

Legally, you are obligated by court orders to continue your payments. If you stop making payment, you may face legal actions such as a mark on your credit report, a suspended driver’s license or, worse, jail time.

For more information on child support services offered by our office, call us at (800) 252-8014 or visit our Web site at