The Internal Revenue Service withheld a record $1.1 billion in delinquent child support last year, channeling would-be refunds to parents and states.
The collections, up 10 percent from 1995, repay parents who supported their children on their own or, in cases of families collecting welfare, repay the state for supporting the family.
An average of $857 was collected on behalf of 875,000 families in 1996.
“The Clinton administration is sending a strong message to deadbeat parents that you will not escape supporting your children,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala said in a statement.
The IRS collections make up about 9 percent of the total $12 billion in child support collected by federal, state and local agencies in 1996.
Under the program, in place since 1981, states send HHS the names of parents who owe child support, who are then notified that their tax refunds will be withheld if they do not pay.
The IRS withholds a tax refund for welfare families if a parent owes at least $150. In non-welfare cases, a parent must owe at least $500 for the refund to be withheld.
The amount withheld has increased as states get better at sending their records to Washington, HHS spokesman Michael Kharfen said.
“States are seeing this is yielding very good results, so we’re getting more records and that’s enabling us to get more people,” he said.
Sixty-nine percent of the IRS collections were on behalf of families collecting welfare.
Most states pass on a portion of the money to the families.