Can Social Security Checks be Garnished?
Section 207 of the social security Act (42 U.S.C. 407) protects social security benefits from assignment, levy, or garnishment. However, the law provides five exceptions:
* Section 459 of the Act (42 U.S.C. 659) allows social security benefits to be garnished to enforce child support and/or alimony obligations;
* Section 6334 (c) of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 6334 (c)) allows benefits to be levied to collect unpaid Federal taxes;
* Section 3402 (P) of the Internal Revenue Code allows beneficiaries to elect to have a percentage of their benefits withheld and paid to the Internal Revenue Service to satisfy their Federal income tax liability for the current year;
* The Debt Collection Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-134) allows benefits to be withheld and paid to another Federal agency to pay a non-tax debt the beneficiary owes to that agency: and
* The Tax Payer Relief Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-34) authorizes the Internal Revenue Service to collect overdue federal tax debts of beneficiaries by levying up to 15 percent of each monthly payment until the debt is paid.
The social security Administration's responsibility for protecting benefits against legal process and assignment usually ends when the beneficiary is paid. However, once paid, benefits continue to be protected under Section 207 of the Act as long as they are identifiable as social security benefits using normal banking practices. For example, you have a particular bank account just for SSI deposits.
If a creditor tries to garnish your social security check, make them aware that unless one of the five exceptions apply, your benefits can not be garnished. You also may want to make your financial institution aware and seek legal assistance if you believe it is needed.
NOTE: Supplemental security Income payments cannot be levied or garnished.