My payments have been consistently current for almost a year, yet my state and federal returns were handed to the DOE

My name is Ashlee. I have a financial situation im not sure how to handle. With work closures due to COVID-19, I was counting on my tax return to aid in supplementing my income for the time being. The DOE garnished it even though I am not in default.

From what I read, which I can barely comprehend, they use creditor agencies to verify whether a borrower is eligible for garnishment. But the agencies don’t update positive marks often enough. Or maybe its that the DOE isn’t reporting my more recent payment history to my creditors? Anyway, I was not very responsible in the past and have had my return rightfully garnished before and had no objection because of the state of my loans. I am almost a year current on my payments and even make most payments over double what my payment is. (My owed amount isn’t dropping at all either but that’s another conversation) lol.

I just cant get educated on these things. There are so many ins and outs. I don’t have enough knowledge about the DOE or the Treasury Offset Program to know what steps to take to get my return back. I just need someone to have a conversation with me so I can get some kind of idea of what options I have. I dont know how long I will be out of work. And I need help now. I do realize this is more of a lawyer question but if you have any advice at all or can refer me to a lawyer or form or anyone that might be able to help I would greatly appreciate it.

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Hi @Ashlip,

I am sorry all of this is happening to you right now. The good news is that I don’t think you need a lawyer to figure this out or to resolve it if it can be resolved.

It sounds like you think your tax refund was taken in error this year. One good place to start would be to log into the National Student Loan Data System to view all of your federal student loans and verify that all of them are current and none are in default. You can log in and check on that here:

Do you have any private student loans? It is possible that a private lender has taken out a judgement against you that authorizes them to seize your tax refund. It is something to consider as a possibility.

Perhaps the simplest place to start would be to just call the Treasury Offset Program at 800-304-3107 and ask them what is going on, why your tax refund was taken, and what options you have.

With the current health and economic crisis, it is possible that you may have more options for getting your refund returned to you and your accounts placed in stopped collection, at least temporarily.

Have you filed a borrower defense to repayment? If so, they shouldn’t have taken your tax refund at all and you can dispute that using the Debt Collective’s tool here: Tools and Services — The Debt Collective

If you haven’t filed a borrower defense to repayment, you can still dispute the tax offset but there is a different process. You can go through your student loan servicer to request a hearing to dispute the offset. This can be done based on hardship (lots of paperwork involved, but worth trying).

We are also organizing a student debt strike which you should join and spread the word to everyone you know:

Call your Senators and Representative and demand that any stimulus package include full student debt cancellation. You can find yours here: Organizing to win College For All

I hope this helps.


Thomas, thank you so much for reaching out. I think I’ll start with the Treasury Offset Program tomorrow and go from there. They are a separate entity? It’s just so easy for them to go under my nose about things because im not knowledgeable enough to even process half the things they tell me. I was one of the dopes that they talked into deferment year after year just to stop the phone calls. Plus I wasn’t sure who to contact first. That’s why I believe a lawyer would be the safest route but obviously not financially ideal.

My loans are through Navient. I believe it was private when it was Sallie Mae but not anymore? And I have not filed a borrower defense to repayment. I’ll have to google it. But I’m in a payment plan that I don’t struggle with in the least so I haven’t been having any problems until they took my return.

My situation seems unique not only because if the pandemic but just the situation in general. I couldn’t find articles to help, so greatly appreciate you taking the time to think about my situation and offer some advice. I even made a Reddit and not a single person responded to my issue. I guess I’ll be spending some time on the phone tomorrow. Lol.

Thanks again Thomas!


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