Why was my tax refund garnished?
When you get a ticket for a traffic violation or other infraction in Indiana, you might have to pay a fine to the court. When a ticket is left unpaid, the amount owed can be taken from your state tax refund and paid to the court toward your unpaid balance.
This process is outlined in the tax intercept statute (IC 6-8.1-9.5), which authorizes garnishment of tax refund money to pay for a variety of unpaid costs and fees you may owe to the state. In the case of unpaid traffic tickets, this is done in partnership between the Indiana Department of Revenue (DOR), the State Board of Accounts, and the Division of State Court Administration and only applies to traffic tickets filed in courts that use the state's Odyssey case management system.
There are other state agencies that also work with the DOR to collect unpaid fees, so if your tax refund has been garnished, an unpaid traffic ticket is just one possible reason.
How do I find out if I have an unpaid ticket?
- Visit our public access website for online ticket payment: https://publicaccess.courts.in.gov/pay/.
- Search by driver's license number or name and date of birth to review your tickets.
- If you have more than one ticket, the search results will not display the payment status, so you'll have to review each ticket to determine whether or not it has been paid. If the ticket has been paid, there will be a message on the page indicating so.
- Some tickets in this system are available for online payment on this site or at another website. See the question below on paying tickets online. If your ticket is not available for online payment, you can make payment in person or by mail.
What do I need to do?
Pay the ticket immediately to avoid having your tax refund garnished.
If you received a letter from the Office of Judicial Administration's Trial Court Technology about the garnishment, you have 30 days from the date of the letter to pay.
If you do not pay the ticket and instead allow the Department of Revenue (DOR) to deduct the amount you owe from your state tax refund, an additional 15% DOR processing fee will be assessed.
How does the amount I owe get applied to my refund?
If your refund is less than or equal to the amount you owe to the court, then your entire refund is being held by the DOR.
- For example, if your refund is $150, and you owe $300 in unpaid tickets, then the DOR will hold $150. DOR will take 15% and the remainder will be applied toward your balance. That means you will still owe the remaining 15% to the court to settle your unpaid balance, and if you do not pay, your next state tax refund will again be subject to garnishment. Also, if your driver's license is suspended for non-payment, it will continue to be suspended until the balance is paid.
If your refund is greater than the amount you owe to the court by 15% or more, then the DOR will hold the amount you owe and issue you a refund for the remainder.
- For example, if your refund is $200, and you owe $100 in unpaid tickets and the DOR processing fee, then the DOR will hold $115 and issue you a tax refund of $85.
You can contact the court by phone to find out how to pay the ticket. Find phone numbers and websites for all Indiana courts and clerks offices starting at http://courts.in.gov/2808.htm.
How can I reinstate my driver's license?
Once your ticket is paid in full, the court will notify the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) to remove your "failure to pay" status. For more information about your driver's license status, contact the BMV.