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Published:   |   Last Updated: February 28, 2024

Refund Offsets

Your tax return may show you’re due a refund from the IRS. However, if you owe a federal tax debt from a prior tax year, or a debt to another federal agency, or certain debts under state law, the IRS may keep (offset) some or all your tax refund to pay your debt.

hand holding money

What do I need to know?

What kinds of debts might be offset?

  • Past-due federal tax;
  • State income tax;
  • State unemployment compensation debts;
  • Child support;
  • Spousal support; and
  • Federal nontax debt, like student loans.

The IRS makes offsets for past due federal taxes. All other offsets are handled by the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service (Fiscal Service). For federal tax offsets, you’ll get an IRS notice. For all other offsets, the notice will come from Fiscal Service.


Download Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation

Download Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief



What should I do?

If the offset paid a federal tax debt

  • If you don’t believe you owe the IRS, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 (or TTY/TDD 800-829-4059) for more information or assistance in resolving the debt.

If the offset paid a non-federal debt

  • If you need more information on the offset, contact the Bureau of the Fiscal Service at 800-304-3107 (or TTY/TDD 866-297-0517) to find out where Treasury applied your tax refund.
  • If you believe you don’t owe a debt to another agency or have questions about it, contact the agency that received your tax refund as shown in your notice.
  • If part of your tax refund offset to a non-federal debt, but you didn’t receive the remainder of your refund, it may have offset to pay a federal tax debt. If this happened, contact the IRS to resolve the discrepancy.

If you didn’t get an offset notice

  • If you didn’t get a notice about an offset but your tax refund is smaller than you expected, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 (or TTY/TDD 800-877-8339).

How will this affect me?

If you filed a joint tax return, you may be entitled to part or all the refund offset if your spouse is solely responsible for the debt. To request your part of the tax refund, file Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation.

If your tax refund was offset to pay a joint federal tax debt and you believe only your spouse or former spouse should be held responsible for all or part of the balance due, you should request relief from the liability.

  • To request relief, file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief. The instructions for Form 8857 have helpful directions.
  • The IRS will use the information you provide on Form 8857, and any additional documentation you submit, to determine if you’re eligible for relief.

Wait, I still need help.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers and protects taxpayers’ rights. We can offer you help if your tax problem is causing a financial difficulty, you’ve tried and been unable to resolve your issue with the IRS, or you believe an IRS system, process, or procedure just isn’t working as it should. If you qualify for our assistance, which is always free, we will do everything possible to help you.

Visit www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov or call 1-877-777-4778.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) are independent from the IRS and TAS. LITCs represent individuals whose income is below a certain level and who need to resolve tax problems with the IRS. LITCs can represent taxpayers in audits, appeals, and tax collection disputes before the IRS and in court. In addition, LITCs can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language. Services are offered for free or a small fee. For more information or to find an LITC near you, see the LITC page on the TAS website or Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List.


Did you know there is a Taxpayer Bill of Rights?

The taxpayer Bill of Rights is grouped into 10 easy to understand categories outlining the taxpayer rights and protections embedded in the tax code.

It is also what guides the advocacy work we do for taxpayers.

Read more about your rights