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Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996: Agencies Face Challenges Implementing Certain Key Provisions

GAO-02-61T Published: Oct 10, 2001. Publicly Released: Oct 10, 2001.
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It is essential that the government not only make and guarantee creditworthy loans but also collect the amounts owed. The Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 was intended to maximize collection of billions of dollars of non-tax delinquent debt owed to the government by requiring agencies to notify the Department of Treasury of debts delinquent more than 180 days for purposes of administrative offset. The act also requires agencies to refer such debts to Treasury for centralized collection action known as cross-servicing. The act authorizes agencies to garnish the wages of delinquent debtors and bars delinquent debtors from receiving federal financial assistance in the form of loans, loan insurance, or loan guarantees until they resolve their delinquencies. This report discusses selected agencies and focuses on (1) difficulties they experienced in identifying and referring eligible debts to Treasury's Financial Management Service or a Treasury designated debt collection center, (2) obstacles to prompt referral of eligible debts, and (3) whether exclusions from referral requirements were consistent with established criteria.

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Debt collectionDelinquent loansWage garnishmentsMedicareFinancial assistanceFarm loansCredit bureausBankruptcyFarm loan regulationsFederal agencies