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CHILD SUPPORT COLLECTIONS FROM FEDERAL INCOME TAX REFUNDS

 

By NWV News writer Jim Kouri
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
March 15, 2009
NewsWithViews.com

A record $2.85 billion in alleged delinquent child support was collected from federal income tax refund offsets in 2008 under the Federal Offset Program.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) announced during a teleconference with bloggers and Internet journalists that the 2008 collection record broke the previous one, set in 2007, by more than $1.15 billion.

Offset collections were assisted in 2008 by the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005 and the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008. Legislative changes in the DRA, which expanded the use of Federal Tax Refund Offset to more child support cases, allowed state child support enforcement agencies to certify to the Federal Government that nearly one million debts previously not eligible for federal income tax refund offset qualify for the offset.

As a result, these additional 170,000 offsets collected more than $200 million. Another 1.4 million offsets attributable to the economic stimulus payments accounted for nearly $870 million.

“With the support of our partners, state child support agencies and some well-timed legislation, the Federal Offset Program was able to reach unprecedented levels of success in 2008,” said Donna Bonar, the acting commissioner of ACF’s Office of Child Support Enforcement.

State child support enforcement agencies report to the Office of Child Support Enforcement non-custodial parents who owe past due child support. These individuals are sent advance notification in writing that they have been certified to the program, their tax refund payments are subject to tax refund offset collections, and how to contest the action if a mistake has occurred. An amount up to the total past-due can then be deducted from their refund payments.

However, there are many men and women who question this tactic and who believe it violates Americans' rights to privacy.

"It's always been my understanding that Internal Revenue Service records are confidential and are not supposed to be divulged to other government agencies. Isn't that what the IRS tells people who ask why they don't alert Immigration enforcement agents when illegal aliens file their taxes and receive refunds?" asks political strategist Mike Baker.

"Clearly the right to privacy -- as far as the federal government is concerned -- is an antiquated concept," he added.

And, according to conservative activists, the new President, Barack Obama, is beefing up this method of collecting child-support.

Widely known as the Recovery Act, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was signed into law by President Barack Obama on February 17. The law contains two provisions that directly affect the National Child Support Enforcement Program:

Section 2104: States are eligible to receive Federal Financial Participation matching of State expenditures using incentive payments effective Oct. 1, 2008 through Sept. 30, 2010 (FY 2009 and FY 2010).

Section 2201: A one-time, $250 economic recovery payment to recipients of Social Security, SSI, Railroad Retirement Benefits, and Veterans disability compensation or pension benefits will be made. This payment is available for Administrative Offset.


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The Administration for Children and Families, within the Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for federal programs that promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities.

One goal of the ACF is to aid families and individuals to become empowered to increase their own economic independence and productivity. Another goal is "have a positive impact on the quality of life and the development of children."

Opponents of the ACF and IRS coordinated effort is being condemned as a slap in the face by Men's Rights groups and advocates.

"As it is, men who are delinquent on their child support payments are arrested and publicly humiliated by law enforcement. Now the IRS and other federal agencies appear to be on the verge of creating an environment in which men are looked at as 'beasts of burden,'" said one divorced father paying support for children adopted by his wife.

According to The National Council For Children's Rights, about five to six million children are denied access to their fathers, often by women defying court orders for visitation.

"Law enforcement should be even-handed. If the authorities feel they have to arrest fathers who don't pay support, they should also arrest mothers who don't allow visitation. Anything else is political grandstanding, not law enforcement. In fact, this kind of selective and politically-motivated enforcement adds to men's resentment and probably lowers the amount of child support collected, in the long run," said a former New York City police detective who's been labeled a "deadbeat dad."

The Federal Agency for Child Support Enforcement reports that about 70% of all child support arrears is owed by men earning less than $10,000 a year. That's a current statistic. Ten thousand dollars, not five million.

Also, about 29% of fathers delinquent on child support are institutionalized, most of them in prison, some in prison for failure to pay child support.

"Mostly poor men, broken men and homeless men are being broken further by a heartless system pretending to care about children," said the decorated NYPD cop.

Many advocates for men's rights find a harsh government bureaucracy assisted by a biased news media contribute to the misunderstanding of child support.

National fathers and men’s rights columnist Glenn Sacks has complained that such harsh treatment of fathers only hounds them into hiding. He said in one interview that many noncustodial parents want to pay child support, but they are down on their financial luck.

“What happens is they fall behind, they can’t get a modification [reduced payment plan] ... and they get an obligation that they can never pay off,” Sacks said.

According to officials with the Equal Justice Foundation, "We are engaged in an epic battle between two incompatible ideologies with fundamentally different views of the rights of the individual and the power of the state, with the future of civilization at stake."

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However, there are many men and women who question this tactic and who believe it violates Americans' rights to privacy.