April 15, 2014

THE FEDS BACK DOWN AGAIN: Social Security stops trying to collect on old debts by seizing tax refunds.

The Social Security Administration announced Monday that it will immediately cease efforts to collect on taxpayers’ debts to the government that are more than 10 years old.

The action comes after The Washington Post reported that the government was seizing state and federal tax refunds that were on their way to about 400,000 Americans who had relatives who owed money to Social Security. In many cases, the people whose refunds were intercepted had never heard of any debt, and the debts dated as far back as the middle of the past century. . . .

The suspension of the collection effort is “the right thing to do,” said Grice’s attorney, Robert Vogel. “It’s a first step. The next thing they have to do is stop collecting debts from children under any circumstances.”

Vogel filed suit in federal court in Greenbelt last week, alleging that the government denied Grice due process by failing to give her notice of the debt and by taking the money from her, even though she was not receiving government benefits at the time the debt was incurred.

Vogel and several members of Congress argued that the government should not be holding children accountable for the financial acts of their parents. The Federal Trade Commission, on its Web site, advises Americans that “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.”

After The Post’s article was published late last week, many hundreds of taxpayers who had had their refunds intercepted came forward and complained to members of Congress that they had been given no notice of the debts and that the government had not explained why they were being held responsible for debts that their deceased parents may have incurred.

It was a reliance on brute power, and it’s nice to see it pushed back.

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