Frequently Asked Questions for the Public
The questions on this web page are about the Treasury Offset Program, the program that withholds money to pay for a debt. If you have questions about that debt and how to pay it, look at the Debt Management FAQs.
Your payment may be less because you owed an overdue debt to a federal or state agency. If that is the case, you should have received a letter telling you this would happen.
The law says that Treasury may withhold money to satisfy an overdue (delinquent) debt. The official term for withholding money from a payment is "offset" or "administrative offset."
The program that offsets federal payments for overdue debts is the Treasury Offset Program (TOP).
People in the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) cannot discuss your debt with you, refund your money, or discuss payment arrangements with you. Only the agency to which you owe the money can do that.
If your payment was reduced because you owed an overdue debt to a federal or state agency, we can tell you whom to call about it. To get that information, call the TOP Interactive Voice Response system: 800-304-3107.
If your payment was reduced because a federal or state agency thinks you owe money, you should have received a letter from that agency. Call or write to them at the contact information on the letter. If you can't find that information, you can get it from our Interactive Voice Response system: 800-304-3107. Only the agency that told us to collect the debt can work with you to return any part of the payment that should not have been taken from you.
Get IRS Form 8379 from https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8379.pdf or by calling the IRS at 800-829-3676. For help with the form - or if you have already filed Form 8379 and still do not have your correct refund - call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or call your local IRS office.
The law lets states collect overdue child support from some types of federal payments.
Contact your state or local child-support enforcement office to find out whether the Treasury Offset Program can reduce your ex-spouse's federal payments for the overdue child support your ex-spouse owes.
For more information, you can also contact the federal Office of Child-Support Enforcement at 202-401-9373.
We send the money we withhold to the federal Office of Child-Support Enforcement, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). They send the money to the states. To find out about a specific payment, ask your state child-support enforcement office to contact HHS.
Your name can be sent to TOP when you have not paid money you owe to a federal or state agency on time. Before sending your name to TOP, the agency must determine that your debt is valid and legally enforceable.
The agency must send you a letter about your debt 60 days before they send the debt to TOP. The letter must give you the chance to resolve or dispute your debt. The agency must also respond to your questions about the debt.
If you have not received a letter about your debt, you must call the agency to which you owe the debt.
If you owe an overdue debt to a government agency, the agency sends information about your debt to our database.
When you are going to get a federal payment, we search the database to see if you owe an overdue debt.
If your debt is in the database, we hold back money from the payment to pay your debt. (The official words for holding back money are "offsetting the payment" or "administrative offset.")
When we take money from your payment, we sent you a letter explaining what we did.
Depending on the type of debt you owe, we can take money from these federal payments:
- Tax refunds
- Wages, including military pay
- Retirement, including military retirement pay
- Contractor or vendor payments
- Travel advances and reimbursements
- Some federal benefit payments, including Black Lung (Part B) benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits (other than Tier 2), and Social Security benefits (other than Supplemental Security Income)
- Other federal payments, unless the law or the Secretary of the Treasury says we can't use them to pay the overdue debt
For some types of federal payments, the law limits how much we can hold back.
Before an agency refers a debt to us, the agency must send you a letter. The letter must tell you:
- What the debt is for
- How much you owe
- That the agency intends to collect the debt by taking money from a federal payment
- What your rights are, including your rights to see, copy, and review information about the debt, and the ways you can arrange to repay the debt
If we take money from a federal payment to pay an overdue debt that you owe, you will get a letter notifying you of the offset.
You may get other letters or notices about the debt, but the law only requires the 2 letters: from the agency saying it intends to refer the debt to TOP and from Treasury if we withhold money from a payment.