Frequently Asked Questions for Federal Agencies
On this page:
Questions about sending overdue debts to TOP
Yes. The law requires any federal agency that is owed a nontax debt that is more than 120 days overdue to notify Treasury of the debt for purposes of offset (withholding funds from a federal payment).
The Treasury Offset Program (TOP) is the part of Treasury responsible for administrative offset.
The debt must still be referred to TOP. However, in most cases, Treasury or the Debt Collection Center will automatically refer the debt to TOP on behalf of the agency.
The Treasury Offset Program (TOP) works with each agency to set a timetable and process for referring debts that are more than 120 days overdue. TOP then documents the timetable and process.
Agencies send the data electronically about the debts they are referring to Treasury, using formats that Treasury prescribes.
Yes. A debtor who wants to avoid offset by paying the debt must pay the agency to which the debt is owed. The agency will then tell Treasury to stop the offset process for that debt.
TOP does not work directly with debtors. If a debtor contacts TOP about their debt, the TOP Interactive Voice Response system directs the debtor to the agency to which the debt is owed.
The debtor must work with that agency to resolve questions, make voluntary payments, enter into payment agreements, or take any other action related to the debt.
Generally, yes. Treasury charges the agency a fee for each offset. The agency that is owed the debt generally must add the offset fee to the amount of the debt.
Questions from disbursing officials about offsetting payments.
Disbursing officials at Treasury, Defense, Postal Service, Army Corps of Engineers or any other government corporation, or any disbursing official designated by the Secretary of the Treasury must conduct administrative offset.
TOP works with disbursing officials in other agencies to match their payments against the TOP delinquent debtor database to offset payments to delinquent debtors.
Yes. It is not necessary for an agency to refer its debts to Treasury for administrative offset, when it may collect the debt through offsetting its own payments.
- Payments made under the tariff laws are exempt.
- Payments that the Department of Education makes under Title IV of the Higher Education Act are exempt.
- Certain federal benefits payments, such as Social Security payments, are subject to offset, but with specific limitations.
- Means-tested federal benefit payments will be exempted from offset if the head of the payment certifying agency requests an exemption.
- Treasury may exempt other payments when requested to do so based on standards that Treasury sets.
If the agency's published regulations are consistent with federal laws and regulations, the agency does not have to publish any more regulations.
Agencies may adopt the Federal Claims Collection Standards (31 CFR 900-904). Alternately, agencies may set their own regulations, as long as they are consistent with the Federal Claims Collection Standards.
The law doesn't specifically say yes. However, the law says that Treasury may charge a fee to cover the cost of administrative offset, including offset by other agencies. Treasury could sign an interagency agreement to have disbursing officials of other agencies handle administrative offset and reimburse those officials for their offset-related costs.