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
  • 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 a notice from the IRS. For all other offsets, the notice will come from BFS.

What Should I Do?

If the offset was to pay a federal tax debt

If you don’t believe you owe the IRS any tax, 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 tax 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 your refund was applied.

If the offset is from the BFS, BUT the refund amount on the BFS offset notice is different than the amount on your tax return, you should contact the IRS to resolve the discrepancy.

If you believe you don’t owe a debt to another agency or have questions about it, contact the agency that received your money as indicated in your notice.

If you didn’t get an 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).

How will this affect me?

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 tax, you should request relief from the liability.

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

What are my Resources?


Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS)

IRS Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief

IRS Instructions 8857, Instructions for Request for Innocent Spouse Relief

IRS Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation

What are my Rights?

The right to be informed

The right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax

You have the right to challenge the IRS’s position and be heard

If you need more help please contact the Tax Advocate Service

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 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.

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