DEFINITION of 'Garnishment'

A legal process whereby payments towards a debt owed by an individual can be paid by a third party - which holds money or property that is due to the individual - directly to the creditor. The third party in such a case is generally the individual's employer and is known as the garnishee. Garnishments are typically used for debts such as unpaid taxes, monetary fines and child support payments.

BREAKING DOWN 'Garnishment'

For example, if John Smith owes $10,000 in unpaid taxes that have been overdue, the IRS can resort to garnishment of his wages. The IRS would then direct Smith's employer to remit a portion of his salary for a certain amount of time, until Smith has paid off his taxes in full. Garnishments can have a negative impact on one's credit rating.

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