Can You Go to Jail For Not Paying Your Debts?

I have been getting this question a lot lately. Apparently there are some overzealous collection agents using this lie to pressure debtors into paying debts they can’t afford. The truth is that you will not go to jail for not paying your credit cards, payday advance loans, medical bills, etc. Debtor’s prisons are a thing of the past, at least in the United States. However, there are two types of debts that you can go to jail for not paying.

Income Taxes

If you make a good faith effort to pay your taxes and if you aren’t attempting to avoid collection attempts it is unlikely that you will find yourself in jail for not paying taxes. Make sure you file your return every year. Communicate with the IRS to explain why you are having difficulties paying your taxes and try to get on a payment plan to at least pay a portion of what is owed. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the problem. The more you proactively take steps to resolve the debt the less likely you will find yourself in trouble.

Child Support

The situation with child support is very similar to income taxes. In Texas, if the Attorney General is attempting to collect child support, cooperate with them. They will likely garnish your wages. If you get a new job let them know where you are so that they can begin garnishment again. Don’t make them search for you! This really is in your best interest because child support earns six percent interest a year, and there may be fees for missing payments. It is in their best interest that you don’t go to jail, because if you are in jail you can’t work, and if you can’t work you can’t pay your child support.