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If you owe certain types of debts, the IRS will keep your refund and apply it to the amount you owe. This applies to those who owe back child support, a previous year's taxes, or a federal nontax debt such as a student loan.
If an offset occurs, you will get a notice from a federal agency known as Financial Management Service. FMS will provide information to you about the amount, date, and nature of the offset. If the debt is back child support, the notice will indicate the state to which the offset amount was paid, and give you a contact in the state that would handle concerns or questions regarding the delinquent debt that resulted in the tax refund offset.
If you file jointly and it is your spouse who owes the debt, the IRS may keep the entire refund. However, you can get your portion of the refund by filing IRS Form 8379, Injured Spouse Claim and Allocation.