Can the Government Take Money Out of Your Account | SoFi (2024)

By Jacqueline DeMarco ·October 15, 2022 · 8 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey.Read moreWe develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide.We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right.Read less

Can the Government Take Money Out of Your Account | SoFi (1)

If you’re wondering whether the government can take money out of a person’s bank account if they are late on a debt or child support payment, the answer isn’t a simple “yes” or “no.” While the government may not be able to directly tap someone’s bank account in these situations, it can permit other parties to remove the funds. Keep reading for more insight into when and how this can happen.

Times When the Government Can Legally Take Money From Your Account

There are certain situations where the government can allow for money to be removed from a consumer’s bank account without their permission. Let’s look at a few ways this can happen.

Right of Offset

The “right of offset” is a term that refers to the fact that both banks and credit unions are allowed to take money from an account holder’s checking account, savings account, or certificate of deposit in order to pay off a debt on another account held at the same financial institution. While the government isn’t the one directly taking the money out of a bank account, they do legally allow this to happen.

For example, if you have a checking account and a student loan through a single bank and you fail to pay your student loan, the bank has the right to take money from your checking account to pay for missed loan payments. If the student loan was held through a different financial institution where the account holder doesn’t have a checking account open, then no action can be taken.

Financial institutions don’t have to give account holders advanced warning before exercising the right of offset. This is legally allowed as long as they follow all rules surrounding this practice.

Appeasing Both Sides

Taking funds from your account typically only happens in situations such as a student loan being about to go into default when the person holding the loan has money sitting in checking that could cover the debt. To know whether your funds could be tapped in this way, take a look at the fine print. Financial institutions like banks and credit unions usually have language surrounding this right of offset in the agreement that an account holder signs when they open a savings account, checking account, or a CD. All financial institutions will have their own version of how they handle and explain their right of offset process. Typically, credit unions have a bit more leeway when it comes to right of offset while banks need to stick to stricter standards. For instance, it’s usually illegal for a bank to seize money from an account to pay a credit card debt. However, credit unions may be able to do this.

Which Accounts Can Be Tapped

Here’s another reason why it’s really important to pay close attention to this language: Sometimes a bank or credit union has the ability to access the funds in any joint accounts that the main account holder shares with someone else (like a spouse). So if, say, you had a joint checking account at a bank with funds in it, and the bank also held your student loan which was close to default, both you and your spouse could wind up having your money withdrawn to go towards that overdue loan. Luckily, the right of offset isn’t eligible for tax-deferred retirement accounts (such as IRAs), so the money in those accounts can’t be touched.

Garnishment of Wages

Garnishment of wages is another example of when the government permits taking money from someone without their permission. This is a legal procedure that requires an employer withhold part of a person’s earnings in order to repay a debt such as child support. Wage garnishment requires a court order; however, Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) protects the person who needs to repay their debt. It says that an employer can’t discharge an employee for having their wages garnished for a single source of debt. However, employee’s with earnings subject to garnishment for a second or subsequent debts do not receive this protection.

Personal earnings such as wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, and retirement income all qualify for wage garnishment, but tips usually don’t.

Does the Government Take Money From Accounts Often?

Having funds removed from a bank account without the account holder’s permission doesn’t happen all that often. When it does, the account holder can generally anticipate that this scenario is going to unfold, with the exception of it being a right of offset situation and they didn’t read their account holder agreement carefully. Garnishment of wages, however, requires a court mandate and won’t catch anyone off guard.

Let’s look at an example of how these situations can occur. If someone has debt and they don’t respond to a debt collector’s suit against them, the judge usually rules against the person who owes money. The judge may rule that the debt collector can garnish their wages, take a lien out on their property, or take money from their bank accounts.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!

Are Any Funds Exempt?

You may wonder if any kinds of funds are exempt from right of offset and wage garnishment. Let’s take a look at the guidelines in this situation. If the documents you signed when you opened a checking account, savings account, or CD included a right of offset agreement, then you’ve permitted the financial institution to take your money to pay a debt under the terms outlined in the agreement. The agreement is a legal contract, and you’re subject to it as long as you’re an account holder.

In some cases, you might not even learn that your bank or credit union has exercised its right of offset until after the fact. The agreement doesn’t, however, open the door for a financial institution to pull money from your account whenever it wants. For instance, federal law prohibits a federally chartered bank from using the right of offset to pay your overdue credit card bill. Again, it is used to repay a loan that is overdue at the same financial institution.

State laws might also limit a bank’s or credit union’s right of offset. This is the case in California, where a financial institution can’t push your balance below $1,000 when it pulls money from your account to cover a debt. Some states also prohibit draining government benefits like Social Security or unemployment in a right of offset action.
When thinking about wage garnishment, let’s take a look at what the law says. What kinds of funds can be garnished? Title III applies to all individuals who receive personal earnings and to their employers. Personal earnings include wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, and income from a pension or retirement program, but does not ordinarily include tips.

Ways to Avoid Government Withdrawals

None of these withdrawals are ideal, and there are steps you can take to avoid them. When it comes to right of offset, it’s possible to avoid having this happening with a little communication. If a consumer fears they won’t be able to make a debt payment to their bank or credit union, they can connect with their financial institution to work out a repayment plan. Being upfront won’t make the situation worse and can lead to a potential solution. If someone loses their job, they can talk to their bank about how to manage their debt until they find a new job.

The best way to avoid wage garnishment is to make the required payments, such as child support, on time. Again, if someone is struggling to make a payment because of financial hardship, it’s best to communicate that upfront and to make a plan for recovery instead of falling behind on payments.

The Takeaway

So, can the government take money out of your bank account? The answer is yes – sort of. While the government may not be the one directly taking the money out of someone’s account, they can permit an employer or financial institution to do so.

If someone plans for debt and other required payments properly, chances are that money won’t ever have to be removed from their account without their permission. Even though funds can be unexpectedly withdrawn via right of offset and garnishment of wages, a person usually knows they have debt that’s past due and may not be totally surprised by this turn of events. When falling behind in payments, it’s often a good idea to talk directly with creditors and explain the situation. A new plan may be created that allows the person in debt to avoid these two scenarios we’ve just explored.

A New Way to Bank With SoFi

Want a fresh banking start? SoFi now offers checking and savings accounts! You can earn more on your money with a competitive APY when you direct deposit into a SoFi Checking and Savings account. Here’s another reason to bank with us: You don’t pay any account or overdraft fees.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall. Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


What is it called when the government takes money from your bank account?

Generally, when someone has money removed from their bank account this occurs through processes known as right of offset or garnishment of wages (which is money taken directly from a paycheck). These processes don’t involve the government directly taking money out of a bank account, but require the government’s approval for a financial institution or employer to do so.

Can the government take money from your checking account?

Through the right of offset, banks and credit unions are legally allowed to remove funds from a checking account. They can do this to pay a debt on another account that the consumer has with that same financial institution.

Can a government take your savings?

Through right of offset, the government allows banks and credit unions to access the savings of their account holders under certain circ*mstances. This is allowed when the consumer misses a debt payment owed to that same financial institution.

Photo credit: iStock/Douglas Rissing

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circ*mstances.


Can the Government Take Money Out of Your Account | SoFi (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Delena Feil

Last Updated:

Views: 5729

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Delena Feil

Birthday: 1998-08-29

Address: 747 Lubowitz Run, Sidmouth, HI 90646-5543

Phone: +99513241752844

Job: Design Supervisor

Hobby: Digital arts, Lacemaking, Air sports, Running, Scouting, Shooting, Puzzles

Introduction: My name is Delena Feil, I am a clean, splendid, calm, fancy, jolly, bright, faithful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.