Refund Offsets


Your tax return may show that 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 of your refund to pay that debt.

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 federal taxes. All other offsets are handled by the Treasury Department's Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS), previously known as the Financial Management Service (FMS). For federal tax offsets, you’ll get an IRS notice. For all other offsets, the notice will come from BFS.

If the offset was to pay a federal tax debt

  • If you don't believe you owe the IRS a balance, call the IRS toll-free at 1-800-829-1040 (or TTY/TDD 1-800-829-4059) for more information or assistance in resolving the debt.

If the offset was for a non-federal debt

  • If you need more information on the offset, contact the Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) toll-free at 1-800-304-3107 (or TTY/TDD 1-866-297-0517) to find out where Treasury applied your refund.
  • If you believe you don’t owe a debt to another agency or have questions about it, contact the agency that received your refund as shown in your notice.
  • If you have a situation where part of your refund offset to a non-federal debt, but you did not receive the reaminder 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 a offset notice

  • If you didn’t get a notice about an offset but your refund is smaller than you expected, call the IRS toll-free at 1-800-829-1040 (or TTY/TDD 1-800-829-4059).

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

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

Have a different tax issue?  Browse common issues and situations at Get Help.

Is your tax problem more complex?  If your issue is causing you financial hardship, you have tried repeatedly and are not receiving a response from the IRS, or you feel your taxpayer rights are being violated, consider contacting Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS).

Do you feel that you need help from a tax professional but can’t afford one? You may be eligible for representation from an attorney, certified public accountant (CPA), or enrolled agent associated with a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.

Last modified May 5, 2017