Garnishments Defined

A garnishment is a legal order to withhold a specified sum from an employee’s wages to satisfy a debt or fulfill a court order. Depending upon the agency that initiates the garnishment, there are a number of different words that also may be used to refer to withholding an employee’s wages.

For example:

  • “Levy” is used by the federal government
  • “Income execution” is used by New York State
  • “Wage assignment” is used by the Sheriff’s Department, Child Support Agencies, Marshall’s Office, and Family Support Divisions

Payroll Deductions

  • After the required waiting period (as defined in the garnishment order) has been observed, Payroll is required to deduct a portion of the employee’s salary earned from future paychecks until the terms of the garnishment order have been satisfied (i.e., the debt has been paid) or the garnishment has been withdrawn
  • The terms of the garnishment (i.e., the amount to be withheld each pay period) is defined by the taxing agency or firm/person named as plaintiff in the order. Only the issuer of the garnishment has legal authority to modify payment terms or withdraw the garnishment order.

Recommended Actions for Employees receiving Garnishment Orders

An employee who receives a garnishment order should do the following:

  • Carefully read all garnishment documentation received upon receipt
  • As needed, contact the appropriate agency or an attorney to request alternative arrangements
  • Promptly respond to federal tax levies by:
    • Completing the Statement of Exemptions form (Part 4 and 5) included in the garnishment documentation received from Payroll. This statement confirms the number of the employee’s dependents, which determines the amount of each paycheck each pay period that will be exempt from garnishment.
    • Contact the IRS to pursue alternate payment plan

    Caution: If Payroll does not receive the Statement of Exemptions form, the employee will receive the default exemption specified by the IRS, which is “married filing separately — with one exemption.” This exemption would result in the maximum amount of garnishment to be taken from each paycheck each pay period. By completing the form, the employee can receive the exempted amount that as determined by the number of the employee’s dependents.

  • Obtain a written release from the agency when the terms of the garnishment order have been satisfied (i.e., the debt has been paid in full). The agency will contact Syracuse University when the terms of the garnishment have been satisfied, but it may not happen in a timely manner. Payroll will cease deductions with the first paycheck issued after receipt of the written release.
  • Keep all copies of a garnishment for at least seven years