Taxpayer asks:

If I am on SSDI but I owe child support, will I still receive a stimulus check?

Taxgirl says:

Typically, certain Social Security benefits, including SSDI or SSI, are exempt from garnishment from most creditors. There are a few exceptions, and one of them is – you guessed it – the federal government. 

If you are collecting SSDI or Social Security retirement benefits, the federal government can garnish your benefits to recover back taxes or defaulted federal student loan payments. Your SSDI and Social Security retirement benefits can also be garnished for child support. Limits apply in those cases.

Here’s where it gets tricky. The CARES Act specifically says that Economic Impact Payments (EIPs or stimulus checks) can only be used as an offset for child support, and not for other obligations like back taxes or student loans. (You can read more about child support garnishes here.)

So, if you receive SSDI or Social Security retirement benefits, but you owe child support, the IRS may offset your check. That’s pretty clear.

Here’s where it’s less clear. If you receive SSI benefits, your SSI payment typically cannot be seized to satisfy existing obligations – including child support. However, your stimulus check is not considered an SSI benefit: it is a refundable tax credit. That means it should not fall under the exception. So while the IRS has not made an official comment on this issue, I believe the IRS will offset stimulus checks to SSI benefit recipients for child support. Readers have reported that to be the case, and that’s the logical conclusion – but this program, to date, hasn’t been very logical.

It’s worth noting that once the EIP payment has hit your bank account, it is no longer protected, and can be seized by creditors.

Before you go: be sure to read my disclaimer. Remember, I’m a lawyer and we love disclaimers.
If you have a question, here’s how to Ask The Taxgirl.

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Author

Kelly Erb is a tax attorney and tax writer.

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