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Boyfriend has garnished wages, can they garnish my tax refund?
January 10, 2014 1:37 PM   Subscribe

I want to list my boyfriend as a dependent on my 2013 taxes -- but he has his wages garnished. I'm also wondering about him filing taxes. Even as a dependent, I believe he's able to -- and he needs to for FAFSA purposes. More details and questions behind cut.

I found out that I am able to claim my boyfriend as a dependent on my taxes since he made less than $3500, and I supported him financially throughout 2013. (more than half, to my calculations, it would be around 85%). In fact, we could really use the money since he is still unemployed and I'm still the breadwinner.

We spoke about this last night and there's only one thing that worries us about adding him as a dependent on my 1040. He has a son from a previous relationship, and for the past couple of years, they have been garnishing his wages from owed back child support -- I think the percentage is around 55%. We know from previous jobs he's held, they take that 55% from his paychecks. I know, you're not my accountant or my tax professional, but I can't seem to find this question anywhere and I don't have the 2 hours to wait to talk to an IRS agent... will they be able to garnish 55% of my tax refund if I claim him as a dependent? I worked full time all through last year and I get other tax cuts aside from just his dependency and obviously, I feel it's my money and not my responsibility to pay for his child support. Would that even be legal? I'm pretty sure that since the taxes are in my name, they're not able to garnish my refund... right?

The other question is also tax related. He made about $300 through self employment but has no other credits or employment to report from last year. He needs to file taxes so he can file his FAFSA for 2014-2015. I've never filed taxes without having income to report -- he'll still be able to file taxes this being said, correct?

Any kind of advice or similar personal experience you can give me on these issues would be greatly appreciated! :)
posted by camylanded to Work & Money (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
will they be able to garnish 55% of my tax refund if I claim him as a dependent? I worked full time all through last year and I get other tax cuts aside from just his dependency and obviously, I feel it's my money and not my responsibility to pay for his child support. Would that even be legal? I'm pretty sure that since the taxes are in my name, they're not able to garnish my refund... right?

This is not legal advice. Depending on the state you are in, they may come after your return. I am somewhat sure they cannot, but I have been impressed at the reach of the state when it comes to securing child support. You *really* should speak with a lawyer in your jurisdiction to find out for sure.

Most likely though, they will come after him - and he could face jail time - with an order to find work and pay his back child support. He's playing with fire by not fulfilling that obligation.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:51 PM on January 10


In case anyone will ask, we are in Indiana -- the back child support is from the state of California.
posted by camylanded at 2:02 PM on January 10


Something that occurred to me...
If you claim him as a dependent, is his FAFSA eligibility effected?
Will they want your income and tax information?
posted by calgirl at 2:10 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


That's a good question, and I'm not sure -- from what I've researched, no, they only want the info if he's a depedent student under 26 and I was his parent... which obviously isn't the case.
posted by camylanded at 2:12 PM on January 10


FAFSA should still consider him as an independent for aid reasons, but the school may want to take a look at your return to make sure there isn't anything too hinky going on. He's only required to file taxes for FAFSA if he is required to file taxes by the feds or state .
posted by Think_Long at 2:14 PM on January 10


I'd say that claiming him as a dependent just might open the door to garnishment. Agencies look for any possible hook. If I have a moment, I can ask my daughter (accountant) if she knows.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:22 PM on January 10


If you claim him as a dependent, won't he be able to sue you for support if and when you break up someday?
posted by KokuRyu at 2:26 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


IANYL but I have gone to college and have filled out many a FAFSA. That said, if you claim him as a dependent it will affect his FAFSA. They will determine his eligibility for grants or loans based on your income level (and your expected contribution to his education from it).

What you're proposing, IMHO, is best avoided. The risk is high and the effect it will have on his eligibility for tuition assistance won't make it worth it. He'll be eligible for far more grants/loans if he files his own taxes (even with only $300 in income) -- He will likely qualify for Earned Income Credit -- but since his wages are garnished, any return awarded to him will be garnished.

So I'd say it boils down to:

Claim him as dependent - get more of a return, but have it possibly garnished and impact his grant/loan eligibility.

or

Don't claim him as a dependent - you won't get as much of a return, but it won't be garnished either and he'll be eligible for far more grants/loans based on his (poverty level) income.
posted by stubbehtail at 2:37 PM on January 10 [6 favorites]


I don't have the 2 hours to wait to talk to an IRS agent...

Not sure if you know, but they're open from 7 AM until 7 PM local time, so you don't have to call during working hours necessarily.

The crux of your question depends quite a lot on whether claiming him as a dependent will cause a percentage your income to be counted as a contribution toward his federal aid. If yes -- as it is with for sure with parents claiming children as dependents -- then the amount he loses in aid may be more than the amount you'll get back on your return. You want to be 100% sure and that's definitely more sure than anything anyone here can tell you.

The IRS should have at least some answers for your questions and they're the most helpful government agency I have ever dealt with professionally and I deal with government agencies all day at work. Your best bet is to find that two hours.
posted by griphus at 3:31 PM on January 10


the IRS is right around half of the time when phone reps are asked questions, FWIW.

at any rate, I don't see how claiming him as a dependent (possible, I was surprised to learn! see, eg, Notice 2008-5) would put you on the hook for anything. claiming him as a dependent just means you do pay for his support, it doesn't mean you're obligated to pay for him.

TINLA, but I would be surprised if one thing led to the other.

BTW, I don't think this is something the IRS would know. its a question of state domestic relations law, not tax law.
posted by jpe at 3:38 PM on January 10


BTW, I don't think this is something the IRS would know. its a question of state domestic relations law, not tax law.

Ah, yeah, this is totally correct in re: having your return garnished. I think I misread the question.
posted by griphus at 3:45 PM on January 10


I am not an accountant, but I did work in a college's financial aid office. Your contribution toward his support should be reported on his fafsa as untaxed income, and will count against his financial aid. His age doesn't matter here; he's above the age where he's presumed to be getting parental support, but that doesn't mean being counted as a dependent won't affect his aid.

Practically speaking, the school wouldn't know that you were supporting him unless his fafsa income was ridiculously low, or if he calls himself a dependent when filling it out. So as far as financial aid goes, he should be reporting your income anyway, but it's unlikely he'd get caught not doing so unless you file with him as your dependent.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:48 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


FAFSA considerations also depend on what level of schooling he's planning on entering. I just wrapped up a Master's in Michigan and I was automatically declared independent according to FAFSA even though the first year I was claimed as a dependent by my dad while I lived with him that year. FWIW.
posted by rawralphadawg at 4:00 PM on January 10


looks to me like even if you were married and filing a joint return, the IRS could only offset the amounts arising from community property or the debtor spouse.

http://www.irs.gov/irm/part25/irm_25-018-005.html
posted by jpe at 4:05 PM on January 10


Child support orders come from states not the Feds or the IRS. The IRS will not take anything from you for a Child support order.
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 5:39 PM on January 10


Make two tax returns, one with him as a dependent and one (set of two returns, actually) with him as a standalone adult.

When I've done this sort of calculation in the past, the difference has usually been in the hundreds of dollars range. Is a few hundred dollars worth the risk of being on the hook for his child support?
posted by Hatashran at 5:43 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Child support orders come from states not the Feds or the IRS. The IRS will not take anything from you for a Child support order.


Not true.

posted by payoto at 7:31 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


To determine if his refund would be offset, you need to talk to someone who deals in California domestic relations law, preferably in the locality where everything was adjudicated. My mom works with child support stuff, and her agencies have enormous discretion/responsibility to actually file for stuff to happen (this is one of the reasons why they have actual lawyers involved, instead of leaving it all up to social workers and administrative assistants.)

Which is to say: if you have a defaulted federal student loan, you are basically guaranteed a refund offset. But when it comes to other agencies... well, they're all a bunch of different agencies, and some of them have very different policies and procedures (and levels of competence, quite frankly.) It's like asking whether or not your overdue library book fines will show up on your credit report: the people most likely to know the answer are the people who do the accounts receivable and collections work for the library in question, followed by competent attorneys, accountants, and similar advisers in that jurisdiction.

As far as the part about you being on the hook, when he's your dependent and not your spouse: I really doubt it, but I'm not an attorney and not an accountant and not anything else. I can say with unequivocal vigor that me being a dependent for my stepdad's taxes didn't make him liable for my debts, and also didn't help me get better deals as far as loan rates were concerned. A dependent is literally "this person I give money to," not "this person whose assets are totally comingled with mine and stuff."
posted by SMPA at 9:06 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Before you go farther, be absolutely certain you can can claim him as a dependent. From what I've just Googled, that's unlikely to be the case. He is neither your dependent child, nor a dependent relative.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:48 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


I relayed your questions to my daughter, who then asked her tax partner. Here's the gist...

1. If you can prove you paid over half of your boyfriend's support for the year, then you should be able to claim him as a dependent. You must have shared the same residence for the entire year.

2. Claiming him as a dependent should not affect garnishment.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:13 PM on January 11


Thanks Thorzdad, this is the conclusion I reached after researching it further. I made doubly sure that I could claim him -- and he's lived with me for longer than a year so that part definitely isn't a problem.
posted by camylanded at 9:17 AM on January 13


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