Can the state garnish my ANCHOR payment for a debt?


Q. Can the state hold back my ANCHOR check? I owe money through the public defender.
— Debtor

A. New Jersey may garnish your payment if you owe back taxes, child support, traffic fines or other debts owed to state government programs, the Division of Taxation said.

But in June 2023, Gov. Phil Murphy championed a bill that eliminates public defender fees in the future, but also applies retroactively to outstanding debts, the state said.

It also eliminated unsatisfied civil judgements, liens on property and warrants issued based on the unpaid balances, for services rendered by the Office of the Public Defender.

“The right to an attorney should be a universal right for those who are navigating our criminal justice system,” the governor said in a statement at the time. “The elimination of these fees gives them the chance to defend themselves against charges without worry of their finances,.”

If your benefit is garnished and you think the funds were taken in error, Taxation said it can’t help if money was taken for another government agency. Instead, you must contact that agency directly using the information on the notice you receive.

Debtors might be relieved to hear the ANCHOR benefit will only be withheld for state debts, not ones held by the federal government. Those might include federal tax debt and overdue student loans.

Your regular state tax refund, though, could be withheld for either state or federal debts, or both.

The Department of Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service said if it withholds your federal refund, it will send you a notice that shows the original refund amount, how much it withheld, the agency receiving the payment and the address and telephone number of the agency.

If you don’t believe you owe the debt, the IRS says you should contact the agency directly. 

But if your money was taken and you don’t receive a notice, you can call the Bureau of Fiscal Service at (800) 304-3107.

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This story was originally published on Sept. 21, 2023. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.