Tax Help

Which Exemptions Protect Me from Wage Garnishment?

Your personal income is one of the most damaging assets that the IRS can get their hands on. You already work hard for your money, imagine having even less of it to bring home because the IRS wants to take a chunk too.

If a creditor or agency is coming after your salary, there are exemptions that can protect you from wage garnishment. Consequently, it is vital that you make yourself aware of the situation and reach out to a tax attorney or consultant to help prepare a defense as soon as possible.

Types of Wage Garnishment

There are different variations of wage garnishment depending on the creditor. Some are required by law to send you a notice of a wage garnishment order and there are exemptions that you can file with the court. Some of the most common types of wage garnishments include:

  • Taxes
  • Child support
  • Student loans
  • Unpaid court costs
  • Credit card bills
  • Medical bills

Each state has different exemption laws so once again speaking with a tax professional, or other legal representative is highly recommended.

Understanding Wage Garnishment

While most creditors are not allowed to garnish wages without first getting a money judgment against you, the IRS is an exception. The IRS is legally allowed to take a portion of your earnings without first getting a court order. They also generally take more than what another type of creditor is able to garnish.

In terms of other creditors, they must first file a lawsuit in court and either win the case or get a default judgment. The latter of which occurs if you do not take action and fail to respond to the lawsuit.

When a wage garnishment order is enforced, your employer is ordered to take a certain amount of your wages and send it to the appropriate creditor. Before it gets to this point you have a few options for exemptions to prevent the initial garnishment.

Wage Garnishment Exemptions

Exemptions give salary earners legal rights to prevent a creditor from taking certain kinds of income, or more than a specified amount from each paycheck. You are given this right by the state government in order to protect citizens from not having enough money to cover living expenses.

Once again, the laws are very specific based on the state you reside in. Depending on the location, you may get partial or even full protection of your income by filing an exemption.

In general, there are some types of wages that are fully exempt from wage garnishment, these include:

  • Alimony
  • Child Support
  • Disability
  • Retirement
  • Social Security

Wages earned through a job, however, are rarely provided the same full protection. Therefore, you must claim additional exemptions.

How to File a Wage Garnishment Exemption with the Courts

In order to protect your personal income you must file a claim of exemption with the state government, or court that issued the underlying garnishment order. Each state has a different method, but the general idea to provide some basic information about the case, describe the exemption you are seeking, and provide any other required documents or information.

Depending on the state, a hearing is usually scheduled to address the matter. A judge is responsible for the hearing and will generally provide you time to explain why the exemption applies to your situation. If the judge agrees with your explanation, he or she can order the creditor to reduce or stop the garnishment altogether.

Dealing with the IRS

Unfortunately, getting an exemption from the IRS is much more complicated. Since the IRS does not have to go through the courts to start garnishing your wages they have much more power.

Garnishment is done through a levy and there are procedures the agency must take to make it allowable. One line of defense is if the IRS did not take the appropriate measures to enforce the levy, you can go after them for it. You also have the right to request a hearing upon a Final Notice of Intent to Levy. There is also a Head of Household Exemption that you can pursue.

Two other options are to reach an Offer in Compromise or enter a payment plan with the IRS before they move forward with the actual garnishment. Once the order is in place, your employer has no choice but to comply.

It is important to note the IRS is not subject to the same state and federal garnishment limitations as other creditors. Therefore, they can take as much of a cut from your earnings as they please.

File for Bankruptcy

Regardless of the creditor (even the IRS), filing for bankruptcy is one way to stop wage garnishments. Property exemptions apply to wages and other assets. Each state has a list of exemptions that one can use to protect private property such as your home or income.

To learn more about what your state protects through bankruptcy, request more information about the state’s exemption statutes. Those items are exempt from being collected during bankruptcy. All other non-exempt items can get seized in Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy.

Get The Right Defense

Dealing with a wage garnishment is serious business and one of the biggest threats to you and your family’s livelihood. It is very important that you build a solid defense and know your rights and exemptions regarding wage garnishment.Contact us today for tax help at 800-TAX-LEVY, or visit us on the web at

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