What are Wage Garnishments and When Should You Hire a Tax Lawyer?

If you have ever owed money to the IRS, chances are you may have been hit with a wage garnishment – or are about to. Wage garnishments are basically court-ordered mandates requiring your employer to withhold a certain portion of your paycheck to send directly to the IRS, or anyone else to whom you owe money (like a credit card company or an ex-spouse for child support payments) until the debt is fulfilled. But while many people have their wages garnished, there are limits that apply to the maximum amount of money that can be withheld from someone’s earnings. For this reason, it is important that anyone whose wages are garnished speak to an experienced tax lawyer so their rights are not violated.

If you are wondering about whether your wage garnishments are fair and whether you should be soliciting the help of a tax attorney, read on to find out.


How are Wage Garnishments Approved?

Whomever you owe money just can’t randomly contact your employer and request a wage garnishment on the drop of a dime. There’s a strict process that must be followed for wage garnishments to be legally approved and, according to federal law, there’s a limit to how much can be taken from your paycheck.

The majority of creditors who attempt to impose a wage garnishment must have a court order to do so. In addition, they can’t just bill for whatever random amount they want. The maximum amount of earnings that can be garnished is generally capped at either 25% of your total “take home” wages after deductions, or the amount that your weekly wages exceed 30 times the minimum wage, whichever of the two is lower. There are also some states that set the cap at a lower rate, which is why it is always important to speak with a tax lawyer whenever your wages are garnished to ensure that collectors are not breaking any rules.

Yet, there are exceptions to this general rule. For example, if you owe money for child support, student loans, or to the IRS over back taxes, then the amount of wages that can be withheld can be higher or the collector may not be required to obtain a court order.

In addition, once the creditor has the necessary documentation and contacts your employer, your employer must then notify you of the garnishment request before they can begin withholding the approved portion of your earnings. Plus, your employer must also provide you with information on how you can refute the garnishment.


When to Contact a Tax Lawyer

Anyone who has received notice that their wages will be garnished, those whose wages are already being garnished, or anyone who believes that a greater amount of earnings than lawful have been withheld has the right to contact a local tax lawyer for legal advice. Even if you just have general questions about the garnishment process or would like a legal expert to give your case a once over, it is always in your best interest to seek legal counsel. Most tax lawyers offer free initial consultations, so you have nothing to lose by requesting a consult – except hundreds to thousands of dollars of your hard-earned money.