Congress established the child support enforcement program in 1975 to ensure that parents financially supported their children. State agencies administer the program and the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) in the Department of Health and Human Services oversees it. In 2002, state agencies collected over $20 billion in child support, but $657 million in collections from 2002 and previous years were undistributed--funds that were delayed or never reached families. One method used to collect child support, intercepting federal tax refunds, involves all state agencies, OCSE, and two Department of the Treasury agencies--the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Financial Management Service (FMS). GAO was asked to address (1) how the total amount of undistributed collections changed over the years, (2) the causes of undistributed collections, (3) states' efforts to reduce these funds, and (4) OCSE's efforts to assist states. GAO analyzed OCSE data, administered a survey, visited 6 state agencies and interviewed officials.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Health and Human Services||1. To better measure the amount of and help reduce undistributed collections, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of OCSE to review undistributed collections data from state agencies periodically in conjunction with one of the other routine reviews to help improve the accuracy of the data.|
|Department of Health and Human Services||2. To better measure the amount of and help reduce undistributed collections, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of OCSE to work closely with the Department of the Treasury to identify a costeffective approach for obtaining information on "injured spouse" claims in order to enable collections from some joint tax refunds to reach families sooner.|
|Department of the Treasury||3. The Secretary of the Treasury should direct the Commissioner of IRS and the Commissioner of FMS to work together with OCSE to identify a cost-effective approach for providing OCSE information needed to identify those collections that have had their "injured spouse" claims satisfied so that these collections can be distributed to families sooner.|