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Published:   |   Last Updated: May 16, 2023

Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) Offsets for Non-Tax Debts

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Station Overview

Your tax return may show that you’re due a refund from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  However, if you owe a federal tax debt from a prior tax year, or debt to another federal agency, or certain debts under state law, the IRS is allowed to forward your refund to pay that debt.  And depending on the type of debt, in many situations the IRS is legally required to forward your refund to pay the debt. This is referred to as an offset. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS), which is part of the Treasury Department, initiates refund offsets to outstanding federal agency debts or child support, state income tax obligations and unemployment compensation debts. These offsets are referred to as Treasury Offset Program (TOP) offsets.

This notice, or letter may include additional topics that have not yet been covered here. Please check back frequently for updates.

What does this letter mean to me?

You (or your spouse, if filing a joint return) have one or more outstanding debts, which could include:

  • Child support
  • Student loans
  • State Income tax
  • Past-due federal tax
  • State Unemployment compensation debts

Your income tax refund has been sent to the agency (thru BFS) to be applied to the debt.

How did I get here?

Because a TOP offset has occurred, you received a notice from BFS stating your refund was used to pay a non-tax debt.

What are my next steps?

If you believe there is an error and you don’t owe the debt applied or if you have questions, contact the agency listed on your notice that received your refund or call the TOP Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System at 800-304-3107, contact information for the agency that received your refund will be provided. Hearing impaired taxpayers may use the Federal Relay Service by dialing 800-877-8339 to reach a Communication Assistant (CA) who will dial the toll-free number for you.

If you filed a joint tax return, you may be entitled to part, or all the refund offset if you are not responsible for the debt because the debt belongs solely to your spouse. If you believe you are entitled to a portion or all the refund amount offset, file Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation.

If your tax refund was offset to pay a joint federal tax debt and you believe 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.

Where can I get additional help?

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If you 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.


Where am I in the tax system?

Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) Offsets for Non-Tax Debts