285.4 Offset of Federal benefit payments to collect past-due, legally enforceable nontax debt.§ 285.4 Offset of Federal benefit payments to collect past-due, legally enforceable nontax debt.
(a) Scope. (1) This section sets forth special rules applicable to the offset of Federal benefit payments payable to an individual under the Social Security Act (other than Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments), part B of the Black Lung Benefits Act, or any law administered by the Railroad Retirement Board (other than payments that such Board determines to be tier 2 benefits) to collect delinquent nontax debt owed to the United States.
(2) As used in this section, benefit payments “due to” an individual, “payable to” an individual, and/or benefit payments “received by” an individual, refer to those benefit payments expected to be paid to an individual before any amounts are offset to satisfy the payee's delinquent debt owed to the United States. Nothing in these phrases, similar phrases, or this section is intended to imply or confer any new or additional rights or benefits on an individual with respect to his or her entitlement to benefit payments. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service (Fiscal Service), the Social Security Administration, the Railroad Retirement Board, and other payment agencies are not liable for the amount offset from an individual's benefit payment on the basis that the underlying obligation, represented by the payment before the offset was taken, was not satisfied. See 31 U.S.C. 3716(c)(2)(A).
(b) Definitions. As used in this section:
Administrative offset or offset means withholding funds payable by the United States (including funds payable by the United States on behalf of a State government) to, or held by the United States for, a person to satisfy a debt.
Agency or Federal agency means a department, agency, court, court administrative office, or instrumentality in the executive, judicial, or legislative branch of the Federal Government, including government corporations.
Covered benefit payment means a Federal benefit payment payable to an individual under the Social Security Act (other than SSI payments), part B of the Black Lung Benefits Act, or any law administered by the Railroad Retirement Board (other than payments that such Board determines to be tier 2 benefits). The amount of the covered benefit payment payable to a debtor for purposes of this section will be the amount after reduction or deduction required under the laws authorizing the program. Reductions to recover benefit overpayments are excluded from the covered benefit payment when calculating amounts available for offset.
Creditor agency means a Federal agency owed a debt that seeks to collect that debt through administrative offset.
Debt or claim means an amount of money, funds, or property which has been determined by an agency official to be due the United States from any person, organization, or entity except another Federal agency. Debt or claim does not include a debt or claim arising under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or the tariff laws of the United States.
Debtor means a person who owes a debt. The term “person” includes any individual, organization or entity, except another Federal agency.
Disbursing official means an official who has authority to disburse public money pursuant to 31 U.S.C. 3321 or another law, including an official of the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Defense, the United States Postal Service, or any other government corporation, or any official of the United States designated by the Secretary of the Treasury to disburse public money.
Fiscal Service means the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, a bureau of the Department of the Treasury.
Monthly covered benefit payment means a covered benefit payment payable to a payee on a recurring basis at monthly intervals that is not expressly limited in duration, at the time the first payment is made, to a period of less than 12 months.
Payee means a person who is due a payment from a disbursing official. For purposes of this section, a “payee” is a person who is entitled to the benefit of all or part of a payment from a disbursing official.
Taxpayer identifying number means the identifying number described under section 6109 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C. 6109). For an individual, the taxpayer identifying number generally is the individual's social security number.
(c) Administrative offset, generally. Disbursing officials shall offset payments to satisfy, in whole or in part, debts owed by the payee. Disbursing officials shall compare payment records with records of debts submitted to Fiscal Service for collection by administrative offset. A match will occur when the taxpayer identifying number and name of the payee (as defined in paragraph (b) of this section) on a payment record are the same as the taxpayer identifying number and name of the debtor on a debt record. When a match occurs and all other requirements for offset have been met, the disbursing official shall offset the payment to satisfy, in whole or in part, the debt. Any amounts not offset shall be paid to the payee. Covered benefit payments, i.e., payments made to individuals under the Social Security Act (other than Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments), part B of the Black Lung Benefits Act, or any law administered by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) (other than tier 2 benefit payments) are among the types of payments which may be offset to collect debts owed to the United States. Offset of covered benefit payments are subject to the limitations contained in this section. Offsets of covered benefit payments will occur only if the name and taxpayer identifying number of the person who is entitled to the benefit of all or a part of the payment matches the name and taxpayer identifying number of the debtor.
(d) Submission of debts to Fiscal Service for collection by administrative offset. Creditor agencies must notify Fiscal Service of all past-due, legally enforceable debt delinquent for more than 120 days for purposes of collection by administrative offset. Creditor agencies may notify Fiscal Service of all debt delinquent for less than 120 days for purposes of collection by administrative offset. Prior to such notification, creditor agencies must certify to Fiscal Service that the debt is past-due, legally enforceable, and that the creditor agency has provided the debtor with notice and an opportunity for a review in accordance with the provisions of 31 U.S.C. 3716(a) and other applicable law.
(e) Offset amount. (1) The amount offset from a monthly covered benefit payment shall be the lesser of:
(i) The amount of the debt, including any interest, penalties and administrative costs;
(ii) An amount equal to 15% of the monthly covered benefit payment; or
(iii) The amount, if any, by which the monthly covered benefit payment exceeds $750.
(2) A debtor shall not receive a refund of any amounts offset if the debtor's monthly covered benefit payments are reduced, suspended, terminated, or otherwise not received for a period of 12 months.
(3) Examples. (i) A debtor receives monthly Social Security benefits of $850. The amount offset is the lesser of $127.50 (15% of $850) or $100 (the amount by which $850 exceeds $750). In this example, the amount offset is $100 (assuming the debt is $100 or more).
(ii) A debtor receives monthly Social Security benefits of $1250. The amount offset is the lesser of $187.50 (15% of $1250) or $500 (the amount by which $1250 exceeds $750). In this example, the amount offset is $187.50 (assuming the debt is $187.50 or more).
(iii) A debtor receives monthly Social Security payments of $650. No amount will be offset because $650 is less than $750.
(f) Notification of offset. (1) Before offsetting a covered benefit payment, the disbursing official will notify the payee in writing of the date offset will commence. The notice shall inform the payee of the type of payment that will be offset; the identity of the creditor agency which requested the offset; and a contact point within the creditor agency that will handle concerns regarding the offset.
(2) The disbursing official conducting the offset will notify the payee in writing of the occurrence of the offset to satisfy, in whole or in part, a delinquent debt owed to the United States. The notice shall inform the payee of the type and amount of the payment that was offset; the identity of the creditor agency which requested the offset; and a contact point within the creditor agency that will handle concerns regarding the offset.
(3) Non-receipt by the debtor of the notices described in paragraphs (f)(1) and (f)(2) of this section shall not impair the legality of the administrative offset.
(g) Fees. A fee which Fiscal Service has determined to be sufficient to cover the full cost of the offset procedure, shall be deducted from each offset amount. Creditor agencies may add this fee to the debt if not otherwise prohibited by law.
(h) Disposition of amounts collected. The disbursing official conducting the offset will transmit amounts collected for debts, less fees charged under paragraph (g) of this section, to the appropriate creditor agency. If an erroneous offset payment is made to a creditor agency, the disbursing official will notify the creditor agency that an erroneous offset payment has been made. The disbursing official may deduct the amount of the erroneous offset payment from future amounts payable to the creditor agency. Alternatively, upon the disbursing official's request, the creditor agency shall return promptly to the disbursing official or the affected payee an amount equal to the amount of the erroneous payment. The disbursing official and the creditor agency shall adjust the debtor records appropriately.[63 FR 44988, Aug. 21, 1998, as amended at 81 FR 1319, Jan. 12, 2016]