Banks and other financial creditors can’t touch your Social Security benefits, but when the government is collecting on a debt, those funds are fair game.
The federal government can garnish your benefits for repayment of several types of debts, including federal income taxes, federal student loans, child support and alimony, nontax debt owed to other federal agencies, defaulted federal home loans and certain civil penalties. Supplemental Security Income cannot be garnished under any circumstance.
What you can lose
Among the government creditors who can grab a piece of your Social Security check, the strongest arm belongs to the IRS. Via the Federal Payment Levy Program, Social Security benefits are subject to a 15 percent levy to pay delinquent taxes. Unlike nontax debts to other agencies, for which the first $750 of your monthly benefits are off-limits to garnishment, the IRS can take its 15 percent cut regardless of how little money you’re left with. Lump-sum death benefits and Social Security benefits paid to children are not subject to this levy.