Yesterday, we reported that the Treasury Department withheld tax refunds from individuals whose dead parents owe public assistance debts from decades ago. After a public outcry, the Social Security Administration has suspended the program.
“While this policy of seizing tax refunds to repay decades-old Social Security overpayments might be allowed under the law, it is entirely unjust,” Democratic Sens. Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland said in a letter to Colvin.
After Colvin’s announcement, Boxer said in a statement: “I am grateful that the Social Security Administration has chosen not to penalize innocent Americans while the agency determines a fair path forward on how to handle past errors.”
Mikulski added, “On the eve of Tax Day, families preparing their budgets across Maryland and our nation are counting on refunds they are owed. Garnishing these refunds to collect overpayments incurred through no fault of their own and based on decades-old errors is a policy that must not continue.”
We hope that Washington journalists will discover who slipped the measure into the 2008 farm bill that allowed federal agencies to collect debts older than ten years. In one case, the debt was 45 years old. The meanness of this program compounds the travesty of current tax enforcement, as the richest Americans have currently stashed $32 trillion in tax-evading offshore accounts.