Social Security Wage Garnishment
If you're struggling with your finances and receiving Social Security benefits from the government, you've probably worried whether your creditors have the legal right to garnish your Social Security wages. For the most part, Social Security law protects benefits from creditors, but there are some exceptions.
Every person's situation is different. To get a better idea about your right under debt laws and the U.S. bankruptcy code, you can connect with a local bankruptcy attorney today.
To ask a bankruptcy lawyer about your specific circumstance and arrange a free, no-obligation consultation, please fill out this form.
Can My Social Security Wages Be Garnished?
As your lawyer can tell you, the Social Security Act (specifically Section 207) protects Social Security wages from creditor collection actions like garnishment, assignment and levy; however, there are five exceptions to the no-garnishment rule. These include the following.
- Child support or alimony obligations: If the creditor in question is attempting to collect on a debt for child support or alimony payments, U.S. law permits Social Security wage garnishment. Incidentally, these types of debts are also considered non-dischargeable by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
- Unpaid federal taxes: If the creditor is attempting to collect on tax debts you owe to the federal government, you could see part of your Social Security benefits garnished. As with child support and alimony payments, federal tax debts cannot typically be discharged in bankruptcy court.
- Current federal taxes: A separate section of the U.S. Tax Code permits the IRS to garnish a limited percentage of a person's Social Security wages for the purpose of paying federal taxes due in the current year. In other words, your Social Security benefits could be garnished both to pay back taxes and current taxes.
- Other debts to the federal government: Another section of the laws guiding Social Security wage garnishment permits Social Security benefits to be garnished in certain circumstances in which a person owes money to another federal agency (that is, an agency other than the Internal Revenue Service).
- Overdue federal taxes: While this may seem repetitive, U.S. laws describe the various types of tax debts in three unique ways. This law (known as the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997) permits the garnishment of Social Security benefits specifically for the purpose of paying overdue federal taxes.
Other Protections from Garnishment for Your Social Security Benefits
Federal protections for Social Security benefits prevent creditors from garnishing your Social Security wages before they are paid into your account. That protection can be extended – that is, your SS benefits can be protected in your bank account as long as they can be identified as such.
For this reason, one federal government Social Security website recommends speaking with your bank to make sure it's aware of the origin of your Social Security benefit money and understands the laws protecting those benefits from any creditors that might attempt to garnish money from your bank account.
Connect with a Lawyer to Learn about Your Protections from Garnishment
While federal law protects you from garnishment in many cases, you may be seeking more complete protection. If you'd like to halt collection actions like garnishment while you attempt to relieve your debt burden, you may want to consider filing for personal bankruptcy. A lawyer in your area can offer you more details.