The Treasury Offset Program is a centralized offset program, administered by the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS), to collect delinquent federal agency debts (including SBA debts), in accordance with 26 U.S.C. § 6402(d) (collection of debts owed to federal agencies), 31 U.S.C. § 3720A (reduction of tax refund by amount of the debts), and other applicable laws.
Payment agencies prepare and certify payment vouchers to BFS and disbursing officials at other federal agencies that are non-Treasury disbursed (such as the Department of Defense), who then disburse payments. The payment vouchers contain information about the payment including the Tax Identification Number (TIN) and name of the recipient.
Before an eligible federal payment is disbursed to a payee, disbursing officials compare the payment information with debtor information, which has been supplied by the federal creditor agency, in BFS’s delinquent debtor database. If the payee's TIN and name match the TIN and name of a debtor, the disbursing official offsets (withholds) the payment, in whole or in part, to satisfy the debt, to the extent legally allowed.
BFS transmits amounts collected through offset to the appropriate federal creditor agencies. BFS maintains information about the delinquent debt in the TOP delinquent debtor database and continues to offset eligible federal payments until the federal creditor agency suspends or terminates debt collection or offset activity for the debt.
A federal creditor agency will suspend collection if the debt is subject to a bankruptcy stay or if other reasons justify suspension. A federal creditor agency will terminate collection of a debt if it is paid in full, compromised, discharged, or if other reasons justify termination.
The federal government's administrative debt collection activities are governed by a number of federal laws. BFS, as the central disbursing agency of the federal government is required to perform such offset pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3716(c).
There are, however, several federal rules and regulations that BFS must adhere to prior to utilizing its TOP levy powers. These rules and regulations my be viewed by clicking: Summary of TOP's Program Rules and Requirements - which explains the general rules applicable to TOP, due process prerequisites, offset amounts (percent of payments that may be offset by debt type) and TOP payment exemptions.
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