Are Social Security Benefits Subject to Liens?


Quick Answer

Social Security benefits are subject to liens to pay delinquent tax debt, reports the IRS. They are also subject to garnishment to meet child support and alimony obligations, states the Social Security Administration. Additionally, the federal government garnishes Social Security payments to cover other federal nontax debt, reports Bankrate.

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Full Answer

The Federal Payment Levy Program authorizes the IRS to collect 15 percent of social security benefit payments to cover delinquent taxes, according to the IRS. Although the first $750 of monthly benefit payments is off limits to nontax debt collectors, the IRS levies the penalty payment regardless of the monthly benefit amount. Supplementary Security Income payments, lump sum death benefits and benefits to children are excluded from the levy. The IRS sends several notices of intent to levy along with an explanation of appeal rights, and the taxpayer has 30 days to respond to the final notice before the levy commences.

Levies of Social Security benefits for child support and alimony payments are administered by the national Court Ordered Garnishment System along with individual states, as reported by Bankrate. The amount levied is limited to the lesser of the maximum allowed by state law and the Consumer Credit Protection Act. This can reach up to 60 to 65 percent of benefits, as of 2015. Social Security benefits can also be garnished up to 15 percent to pay off federal student loans, and there is no statute of limitations on levies to cover the debt.

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