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On March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). In a few short days, businesses across the nation had closed their doors after receiving orders from their state governments to shut down operations. To help Americans deal with the economic impact of the pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and on March 27, President Trump signed the Act into law.

As a critical part of the Act, individuals were to receive $1,200 stimulus payments and married couples were to receive $2,400. Additionally, parents were to receive $500 for each child age 16 and under – that’s $500 per child, per household. If the parents lived in separate households, only the parent who claimed the child as a dependent could receive a check for their child. Most Americans qualify for economic stimulus payments, but there are exceptions, specifically parents who owe back child support.

The Treasury Offset Program

Lots of people have debt, but that doesn’t mean it will be taken from their stimulus check. If you owe tax debt, your stimulus check won’t be touched by the Treasury Offset Program, which does take tax refunds and pay them toward back taxes. However, if you owe back child support, that’s another story.

“The economic impact payments can be offset through the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) only to collect delinquent child support obligations that have been referred by the state to TOP,” according to the Bureau of Fiscal Service, a government agency.

But how much of your economic stimulus payment can be taken to pay back child support? It depends on how much you owe. “Your entire economic impact payment can be offset, up to the amount of your child support debt.”

Note: If your spouse owes child support and you file your taxes jointly, your portion can go to your spouse’s child support arrears. To prevent this from happening, you’d want to file an injured spouse form with the IRS.

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