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Debt Collection

Collecting Delinquent Debt

The Bureau of the Fiscal Service (Fiscal Service) is the government's central debt collection agency, managing the government's delinquent debt portfolio.

Fiscal Service, using a centralized process, collects delinquent debts - for example federal student, mortgage, or small business loans, federal salary or benefit overpayments, fines or penalties assessed by federal agencies - owed to the United States government, as well as income tax debts owed to states and overdue child support payments owed to custodial parents. (Read more about DMS programs).

Two major tools are used to collect delinquent debts;

  • First, under the Treasury Offset Program (TOP), the names and taxpayer identifying numbers of debtors included in a Fiscal Service database are matched against the names and taxpayer identifying numbers of recipients of federal payments. If there are matches, the amounts of the payments are reduced ("offset") to satisfy the delinquent debts.

  • Second, through a program known as "cross-servicing", delinquent debts that are referred to Fiscal Service by federal agencies are collected using a variety of means. They include:

    • offsetting federal payments,

    • sending demand letters to debtors,

    • entering into repayment arrangements,

    • withholding wages administratively,

    • referring debts to the Department of Justice for action,

    • reporting to credit bureaus, and

    • contracting for the services of private collection agencies.

By allowing federal agencies with lending authority to access information from the Fiscal Service delinquent debtor database, we work to ensure that the federal government does not issue loans to delinquent debtors.

Since Fiscal Service was given responsibility for centralized collection of debt, we’ve sharply increased collections through program changes, adding numerous payment streams and categories of debt.

We’ve also worked with agencies to ensure timely referral of debts more than 120 days past due.

The role of the federal program agencies is critical to the success of collection efforts. Those agencies refer eligible delinquent debts to Treasury for collection.

TOP is a debt collection program that uses offset, reducing or "offsetting" federal payments to satisfy a person's overdue federal debt, child support obligation, or state income tax debt. This is where the largest dollar volume is collected.

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