In order for a creditor to garnish your wages, they must first file a lawsuit regarding the debt in question and receive a court judgment in their favor (win the lawsuit). Once this occurs, they will receive an order of garnishment also referred to as a writ of garnishment. This order is sent to your employer who must hold this writ of garnishment for 30 days. The reason a 30 day hold requirement was placed into the process is to allow time for the employer and the employee to verify that the order is for the correct person, etc. The problem is that employers are not required to notify you that they have received an order of garnishment. They may simply hold it and you will find out 30 days later when your first check is garnished.
It’s important to note that a garnishment is applicable to any money in possession of a third party (ie: your employer, your bank, etc). It’s not limited to only what you earn. Wage garnishment is simply the most common form of garnishment.
Garnishment is an option for a creditor for any type of debt that results in a judgment in favor of the creditor. Lawsuits for breach of contract or to collect debts owed for cars, medical expenses, promissory notes, etc are all applicable. Even debts relating to taxes and domestic support obligations (child support or alimony) can lead to garnishment.
Now concerning tax debt, the IRS does not require the court system to issue an order of garnishment. They have special authority to pursue tax debt payment.
If you are facing garnishment, you need to speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney as soon as possible to head off and/or stop this action immediately.