Because the federal government backs certain student loans, it is serious about collecting the money from you. If you default on your student loans, you can't file bankruptcy and escape the debt. The government has the right to garnish your wages and your tax refunds until the debt is paid. Although you don't file joint taxes with your boyfriend, there is one case in which he could be liable for your debt and have his taxes garnished.
The only way your boyfriend's taxes can be garnished for your unpaid student loans is if he co-signed the loans for you. Some federal and most private loans allow co-signers to help you qualify. The co-signer is as legally obligated to pay the loan as you are, which is why it is important to carefully consider a request to co-sign a loan, even if you have the money. If you default on your loan, the IRS can garnish your tax refunds as well as those of your co-signer.
If your boyfriend co-signed on your loan, the government can garnish more than his federal tax refund. It can seize his state tax refund and his wages until the loan is paid. Many lenders are willing to work out a payment plan to keep the garnishments from occurring, so start by giving your lender a call and explaining why the payments are late. Talk to the lender about getting you back on track, which often requires a new loan payment amount or different interest rate to compensate for the missing payments.
Even if you and your boyfriend have been living together for years, co-habitating isn't a legal obligation for your boyfriend to pay your debt. Whether you've been living together since you were in college or if you're debating whether to move in together, your living arrangements don't come into play when the IRS decides to garnish wages. The IRS can garnish only the wages of people legally obligated to pay the debt -- you and a co-signer.
If you and your boyfriend get married and file taxes jointly, the joint tax refund you receive can be garnished by the IRS. This means that his portion of the refund can be taken as well as yours. However, he can file a Form 8379 with the IRS and claim to be an injured spouse. This means his part of the refund was garnished for the defaulted student loan that was yours alone. If the IRS agrees that he qualifies as an injured spouse, he will receive his portion of your joint refund.
Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.