Frequently Asked Questions for the Public
The following questions specifically concern Treasury Offset Program, the program used to withhold money to pay for a debt. For questions about that debt and resolving it, visit Debt Management Service FAQs.
In most cases, your name can be sent to TOP if your debt is more than 90 days delinquent. The government agency must determine that your debt is valid and legally enforceable. The agency must send you notices about your debt and provide you with opportunities to resolve or dispute your debt. The agency must also respond to questions and inquiries regarding your debt. If you have not received a notice about your debt, you must call the agency to which you owe the debt.
- If you owe a delinquent debt to a government agency, that agency sends information about your debt to our database.
- Before you receive a federal payment, the database is searched to see if you owe a delinquent debt.
- If your debt is in the database, Fiscal Service will offset (reduce or withhold) your federal payment to pay your debt.
- When your payment is taken, a letter will be sent to you regarding the action.
Depending upon the type of debt you owe, the following federal payments may be eligible for offset or levy:
- tax refunds
- wages, including military pay
- retirement, including military retirement pay
- contractor/vendor payments
- travel advances and reimbursements
- certain federal benefit payments, including Social Security benefits (other than Supplemental Security Income), Railroad Retirement benefits (other than tier 2), and Black Lung (part B benefits)
- other federal payments that are not exempt by law or by action of the Secretary of the Treasury.
Federal law limits the amount that may be withheld from some types of federal payments.
At the Fiscal Service, we cannot make arrangements for you to pay off your debt, discuss your debt with you or refund your money. The TOP IVR at 800-304-3107 can tell you who to call about your debt or offset. We will not tell anyone but you about your debts, unless you tell us to.
Before a creditor agency refers a debt to the Treasury Offset Program, it will have provided the debtor with all due process notices concerning the debt. These notices include: written notification of the nature and amount of the debt, the intention of the agency to collect the debt through administrative offset, and an explanation of the debtor's rights (inspection, copying, review and repayment opportunities). The creditor agency has therefore informed the delinquent debtor of the potential referral of the debt to the Treasury Offset Program. Once in the Treasury Offset Program, the debtor will be informed by Treasury when an offset is taken.
There may be other notices published or mailed to debtors if Treasury determines they are needed, but none are required by law except those stated above.
A person is also entitled at any time to inquire in writing whether he/she is in the delinquent debtor database maintained by Treasury and he/she will be answered in writing by Treasury.