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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR Data is current as of April 23, 2014

Title 5: Administrative Personnel
PART 550—PAY ADMINISTRATION (GENERAL)


Subpart K—Collection by Offset From Indebted Government Employees


Contents
§550.1101   Purpose.
§550.1102   Scope.
§550.1103   Definitions.
§550.1104   Agency regulations.
§550.1105   Review and approval of agency regulations.
§550.1106   Time limit on collection of debts.
§550.1107   Obtaining the services of a hearing official.
§550.1108   Requesting recovery through centralized administrative offset.
§550.1109   Requesting recovery when the current paying agency is not the creditor agency.
§550.1110   Debt collection centers.

Authority: 5 U.S.C. 5514; sec. 8(1) of E.O. 11609; redesignated in sec. 2-1 of E.O. 12107.

Source: 49 FR 27472, July 3, 1984, unless otherwise noted.

§550.1101   Purpose.

This subpart provides the standards to be used by Federal agencies to prepare regulations implementing 5 U.S.C. 5514 and by OPM to review and approve such agency regulations, and establishes procedural guidelines to recover debts from the current pay account of an employee when the employee's creditor and paying agencies are not the same.

§550.1102   Scope.

(a) Coverage. This subpart applies to agencies and employees defined by §550.1103.

(b) Applicability. This subpart and 5 U.S.C. 5514 apply in recovering certain debts by administrative offset, except where the employee consents to the recovery, from the current pay account of the employee. Because salary offset is a type of administrative offset, debt collection procedures for salary offset which are not specified in 5 U.S.C. 5514 and these regulations should be consistent with the provisions of the Federal Claims Collections Standards (FCCS) (dealing with administrative offset generally) and 31 CFR part 285 (dealing with centralized administrative offset under 31 U.S.C. 3716). Section 550.1108 addresses the use of centralized administrative offset procedures to effect salary offset. Generally, the procedures under §550.1109 should apply only when centralized administrative offset cannot be accomplished.

(1) Excluded debts. The procedures contained in this subpart do not apply to—

(i) Debts arising under the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 1 et seq.);

(ii) Debts arising under the tariff laws of the United States;

(iii) Any case where collection of a debt by salary offset is explicitly provided for or prohibited by another statute (e.g., travel advances in 5 U.S.C. 5705 and employee training expenses in 5 U.S.C. 4108); or

(iv) Any other debt excluded by the FCCS or 31 CFR part 285.

(2) Waiver requests. This subpart does not preclude an employee from requesting waiver of an erroneous payment under 5 U.S.C. 5584, 10 U.S.C. 2774, or 32 U.S.C. 716, or in any way questioning the amount or validity of a debt, in the manner prescribed by the head of the responsible agency. Similarly, this subpart does not preclude an employee from requesting waiver of the collection of a debt under any other applicable statutory authority.

(3) Compromise, suspension, or termination of collection actions. This subpart does not preclude the compromise, suspension, or termination of collection actions, where appropriate, as provided in the FCCS (31 CFR 900.4) or the use of alternative dispute resolution methods if they are not inconsistent with agency-specific laws and regulations.

[49 FR 27472, July 3, 1984, as amended at 63 FR 72099, Dec. 31, 1998; 79 FR 530, Jan. 6, 2014]

§550.1103   Definitions.

For purposes of this subpart—

Agency means an executive department or agency; a military department; the United States Postal Service; the Postal Regulatory Commission; any nonappropriated fund instrumentality described in 5 U.S.C. 2105(c); the United States Senate; the United States House of Representatives; any court, court administrative office, or instrumentality in the judicial or legislative branches of the Government; or a Government corporation. If an agency under this definition is a component of an agency, the broader definition of agency may be used in applying the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 5514(b) (concerning the authority to prescribe regulations).

Creditor Agency means the agency to which the debt is owed, including a debt collection center when acting in behalf of a creditor agency in matters pertaining to the collection of a debt (as provided in §550.1110).

Debt means an amount owed to the United States from sources which include loans insured or guaranteed by the United States and all other amounts due the United States from fees, leases, rents, royalties, services, sales of real or personal property, overpayments, penalties, damages, interest, fines and forfeitures (except those arising under the Uniform Code of Military Justice), and all other similar sources.

Debt collection center means the Department of the Treasury or other Government agency or division designated by the Secretary of the Treasury with authority to collect debts on behalf of creditor agencies in accordance with 31 U.S.C. 3711(g).

Disposable pay means that part of current basic pay, special pay, incentive pay, retired pay, retainer pay, or in the case of an employee not entitled to basic pay, other authorized pay remaining after the deduction of any amount required by law to be withheld (other than deductions to execute garnishment orders in accordance with parts 581 and 582 of this chapter). Among the legally required deductions that must be applied first to determine disposable pay are levies pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code (title 26, United States Code) and deductions described in §581.105(b) through (f) of this chapter.

Employee means a current employee of an agency, including a current member of the Armed Forces or a Reserve of the Armed Forces (Reserves).

FCCS means the Federal Claims Collections Standards published in 31 CFR parts 900 through 904.

Paying agency means the agency employing the individual and authorizing the payment of his or her current pay.

Salary offset means an administrative offset to collect a debt under 5 U.S.C. 5514 by deduction(s) at one or more officially established pay intervals from the current pay account of an employee without his or her consent.

Waiver means the cancellation, remission, forgiveness, or non-recovery of a debt allegedly owed by an employee to an agency as permitted or required by 5 U.S.C. 5584, 10 U.S.C. 2774, or 32 U.S.C. 716, 5 U.S.C. 8346(b), or any other law.

[49 FR 27472, July 3, 1984, as amended at 51 FR 16670, May 6, 1986; 63 FR 72100, Dec. 31, 1998; 74 FR 23938, May 22, 2009; 79 FR 530, Jan. 6, 2014]

§550.1104   Agency regulations.

Under this subpart and 5 U.S.C. 5514, each creditor agency must issue regulations, subject to approval by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), governing the collection of a debt by salary offset. Each agency is responsible for assuring that the regulations governing collection of internal debts are uniformly and consistently applied to all its employees. Agency regulations issued under authority of 5 U.S.C. 5514 must contain the following minimum provisions:

(a) Applicability or scope. Indicate whether regulations cover internal or Government-wide collections under 5 U.S.C. 5514, or both.

(b) Entitlement to notice, hearing, written responses and decisions. Identify when the employee is entitled to notice, when hearings will be offered, when the employee is entitled to a response or decision after exercising his or her rights under §5514 and this subpart, and if the hearing official's decision is not in the employee's favor or the employee chooses not to request a hearing, what other rights and remedies are available under the statutes or regulations governing the program that requires the collection to be made. Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, each employee from whom the creditor agency proposes to collect a debt under this subpart is entitled to receive from the creditor agency—

(1) A written notice as described in paragraph (d) of this section;

(2) The opportunity to petition for a hearing and, if a hearing is given, to receive a written decision from the official holding the hearing on the following issues:

(i) The determination of the creditor agency concerning the existence or amount of the debt; and

(ii) The repayment schedule, if it was not established by written agreement between the employee and the creditor agency.

(c) Exception to entitlement to notice, hearing, written responses, and final decisions. In regulations covering internal collections, an agency must except from the provisions of paragraph (b) of this section—

(1) Any adjustment to pay arising out of an employee's election of coverage or a change in coverage under a Federal benefits program requiring periodic deductions from pay, if the amount to be recovered was accumulated over 4 pay periods or less;

(2) A routine intra-agency adjustment of pay that is made to correct an overpayment of pay attributable to clerical or administrative errors or delays in processing pay documents, if the overpayment occurred within the 4 pay periods preceding the adjustment and, at the time of such adjustment, or as soon thereafter as practical, the individual is provided written notice of the nature and the amount of the adjustment and point of contact for contesting such adjustment; or

(3) Any adjustment to collect a debt amounting to $50 or less, if, at the time of such adjustment, or as soon thereafter as practical, the individual is provided written notice of the nature and the amount of the adjustment and a point of contact for contesting such adjustment.

(d) Notification before deductions begin. Provide for notification before deductions begin. Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, deductions under the authority of 5 U.S.C. 5514 must not be made unless the head of the creditor agency (or authorized designee) provides the employee a written notice at least 30 days before any deduction begins. (For debts outstanding more than 10 years on or before June 11, 2009, see also 31 CFR 285.7(d) for additional notification requirements.) The written notice must state at a minimum:

(1) The creditor agency's determination that a debt is owed, including the origin, nature, and amount of that debt;

(2) The creditor agency's intention to collect the debt by means of deduction from the employee's current disposable pay account;

(3) The frequency and amount of the intended deduction (stated as a fixed dollar amount or as a percentage of pay, not to exceed 15 percent of disposable pay except as provided in paragraph (i) of this section) and the intention to continue the deductions until the debt is paid in full or otherwise resolved;

(4) An explanation of the creditor agency's policy concerning interest, penalties, and administrative costs, including a statement that such assessments must be made unless excused in accordance with the FCCS as defined in §550.1103;

(5) The employee's right to inspect and copy Government records relating to the debt or, if employee or his or her representative cannot personally inspect the records, to request and receive a copy of such records;

(6) If not previously provided, the opportunity (under terms agreeable to the creditor agency) to establish a schedule for the voluntary repayment of the debt or to enter into a written agreement to establish a schedule for repayment of the debt in lieu of offset. The agreement must be in writing, signed by both the employee and the creditor agency; and documented in the creditor agency's files (see the FCCS);

(7) The employee's right to a hearing conducted by an official arranged by the creditor agency (an administrative law judge, or alternatively, a hearing official not under the control of the head of the agency) if a petition is filed as prescribed by the creditor agency;

(8) The method and time period for petitioning for a hearing;

(9) That the timely filing of a petition for hearing will stay the commencement of collection proceedings;

(10) That a final decision on the hearing (if one is requested) will be issued at the earliest practical date, but not later than 60 days after the filing of the petition requesting the hearing unless the employee requests and the hearing official grants a delay in the proceedings;

(11) That any knowingly false or frivolous statements, representations, or evidence may subject the employee to:

(i) Disciplinary procedures appropriate under chapter 75 of title 5, United States Code, part 752 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, or any other applicable statutes or regulations;

(ii) Penalties under the False Claims Act, §§3729-3731 of title 31, United States Code, or any other applicable statutory authority; or

(iii) Criminal penalties under §§286, 287, 1001, and 1002 of title 18, United States Code or any other applicable statutory authority.

(12) Any other rights and remedies available to the employee under statutes or regulations governing the program for which the collection is being made; and

(13) Unless there are applicable contractual or statutory provisions to the contrary, that amounts paid on or deducted for the debt which are later waived or found not owed to the United States will be promptly refunded to the employee.

(e) Petitions for hearing. (1) Prescribe the method and time period for petitioning for a hearing. Ordinarily, a hearing may be requested by filing a written petition addressed to the appropriate creditor agency official stating why the employee believes the determination of the creditor agency concerning the existence or amount of the debt is in error.

(2) The employee's petition or statement must be signed by the employee and fully identify and explain with reasonable specificity all the facts, evidence and witnesses, if any, which the employee believes support his or her position.

(f) Petitions for hearing made after time expires. Prescribe the action to be taken on a petition for hearing made after the expiration of the period provided in the notice described in paragraph (d) of this section. Ordinarily a creditor agency should accept requests if the employee can show that the delay was because of circumstances beyond his or her control or because of failure to receive notice of the time limit (unless otherwise aware of it).

(g) Form of hearings, written responses, and final decisions. (1) Define the form and content of hearings, written responses, and written decisions to be provided when the employee exercises his or her rights under §5514 and this subpart.

(2) The form and content of hearings granted under this subpart will depend on the nature of the transactions giving rise to the debts included within each debt collection program. Agencies should refer to the FCCS for information on hearing form and content.

(3) Written decisions provided after a request for hearing must, at a minimum, state the facts purported to evidence the nature and origin of the alleged debt; the hearing official's analysis, findings and conclusions, in light of the hearing, as to the employee's and/or creditor agency's grounds, the amount and validity of the alleged debt and, where applicable, the repayment schedule.

(h) Method and source of deductions. Identify the method and source of deductions. At a minimum, agency regulations must identify the method of collection as salary offset and the source of deductions as current disposable pay, except as provided in paragraphs (l) and (m) of this section.

(i) Limitation on amount of deductions. Prescribe the limitations on the amount of the deduction. Ordinarily, the size of installment deductions must bear a reasonable relationship to the size of the debt and the employee's ability to pay (see the FCCS at 31 CFR 901.8). However, the amount deducted for any period under this subpart may not exceed 15 percent of the disposable pay from which the deduction is made, unless the employee has agreed in writing to the deduction of a greater amount or a higher deduction has been ordered by a court under section 124 of Public Law 97-276 (96 Stat.1195).

(j) Duration of deductions. Prescribe the duration of deductions under this subpart. Ordinarily, debts must be collected in one lump sum where possible. However, if the employee is financially unable to pay in one lump sum or the amount of the debt exceeds 15 percent of disposable pay (or other applicable limitation as provided in paragraph (i) of this section) for an officially established pay interval, collection must be made in installments. Such installment deductions must be made over a period not greater than the anticipated period of active duty or employment, as the case may be, except as provided in paragraphs (1) and (m) of this section.

(k) When deductions may begin. Prescribe when deductions will be scheduled to begin in internal agency collections.

(l) Liquidation from final check. Provide for offset under 31 U.S.C. 3716, if the employee retires or resigns or if his or her employment or period of active duty ends before collection of the debt is completed, from subsequent payments of any nature (e.g., final salary payment, lump-sum leave, etc.) due the employee from the paying agency as of the date of separation to the extent necessary to liquidate the debt.

(m) Recovery from other payments due a separated employee Provide for offset under 31 U.S.C. 3716 from later payments of any kind due the former employee from the United States, where appropriate, if the debt cannot be liquidated by offset from any final payment due the former employee as of the date of separation. (See the FCCS.)

(n) Interest, penalties, and administrative costs. Provide for the assessment of interest, penalties, and administrative costs on debts being collected under this subpart. These charges and the waiving of them must be prescribed in accordance with the FCCS.

(o) Non-waiver of rights by payments. Provide that an employee's involuntary payment, of all or any portion of a debt being collected under 5 U.S.C. 5514 must not be construed as a waiver of any rights which the employee may have under 5 U.S.C. 5514 or any other provision of contract or law, unless there are statutory or contractual provisions to the contrary.

(p) Refunds. (1) Provide for promptly refunding to the appropriate party, amounts paid or deducted under this subpart when—

(i) A debt is waived or otherwise found not owing to the United States (unless expressly prohibited by statute or regulation); or

(ii) The employee's paying agency is directed by an administrative or judicial order to refund amounts deducted from his or her current pay.

(2) Refunds do not bear interest unless required or permitted by law or contract.

[33 FR 12458, Sept. 4, 1968, as amended at 63 FR 72100, Dec. 31, 1998; 64 FR 69180, Dec. 10, 1999; 79 FR 530, Jan. 6, 2014]

§550.1105   Review and approval of agency regulations.

(a) Initial OPM review of agency regulations. (1) Creditor agencies must submit regulations to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for review in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 5514 and this subpart prior to publication of final regulations or prior to implementation, if intragency collection procedures are not published. Submissions must be for agency-wide and/or Government-wide collections.

(2) Creditor agency regulations must contain all provisions specified in §550.1104. If agency regulations are incomplete, OPM will return them with information as to what must be done to obtain approval.

(b) Proposed changes in salary offset regulations. If a creditor agency proposes significant changes in the regulations covering provisions specified in §550.1104, the proposed revisions must be submitted to OPM for review and approval prior to implementation.

(c) Supplemental regulations. When a creditor agency has issued approved regulations covering the provisions specified in §550.1104, the agency may issue any supplemental regulations or instructions, consistent with its approved regulations, which are necessary for solely internal operations, without prior OPM approval.

§550.1106   Time limit on collection of debts.

Agencies may initiate salary offset to collect a debt without time limitations on any debt outstanding after the Government's right to collect the debt first accrued. (See §550.1108 for requirement when debts are delinquent over 180 days.)

[79 FR 530, Jan. 6, 2014]

§550.1107   Obtaining the services of a hearing official.

(a) When the debtor does not work for the creditor agency and the creditor agency cannot provide a prompt and appropriate hearing before an administrative law judge or before a hearing official furnished pursuant to another lawful arrangement, the creditor agency may contact an agent of the paying agency designated in appendix A of part 581 of this chapter to arrange for a hearing official, and the paying agency must then cooperate as provided by the FCCS as defined in §550.1103 and provide a hearing official.

(b) When the debtor works for the creditor agency, the creditor agency may contact any agent (of another agency) designated in appendix A of part 581 of this chapter to arrange for a hearing official. Agencies must then cooperate as required by the FCCS and provide a hearing official.

(c) The determination of a hearing official designated under this section is considered to be an official certification regarding the existence and amount of the debt for purposes of executing salary offset under 5 U.S.C. 5514. A creditor agency may make a certification to the Secretary of the Treasury under §550.1108 or a paying agency under §550.1109 regarding the existence and amount of the debt based on the certification of a hearing official. If a hearing official determines that a debt may not be collected via salary offset, but the creditor agency finds that the debt is still valid, the creditor agency may still seek collection of the debt through other means, such as offset of other Federal payments, litigation, etc.

[51 FR 16670, May 6, 1986, as amended at 63 FR 72100, Dec. 31, 1998]

§550.1108   Requesting recovery through centralized administrative offset.

Under 31 U.S.C. 3716, creditor agencies must notify the Secretary of the Treasury of all debts that are delinquent as defined in the FCCS (over 180 days) so that recovery may be made by centralized administrative offset. This includes those debts the agency seeks to recover from the pay account of an employee of another agency via salary offset. The Secretary of the Treasury and other Federal disbursing officials will match payments, including Federal salary payments, against these debts. Where a match occurs, and all the requirements for offset have been met, the payments will be offset to collect the debt. Prior to offset of the pay account of an employee, an agency must comply with the requirements of 5 U.S.C. 5514, this subpart, and agency regulations issued thereunder. Specific procedures for notifying the Secretary of the Treasury of a debt for purposes of collection by centralized administrative offset are contained in 31 CFR part 285 and the FCCS. At its discretion, a creditor agency may notify the Secretary of the Treasury of debts that have been delinquent for 180 days or less, including debts the agency seeks to recover from the pay account of an employee via salary offset.

[63 FR 72101, Dec. 31, 1998]

§550.1109   Requesting recovery when the current paying agency is not the creditor agency.

When possible, salary offset through the centralized administrative offset procedures in §550.1108 should be attempted before applying the procedures in this section.

(a) Responsibilities of creditor agency. Upon completion of the procedures established by the creditor agency under 5 U.S.C. 5514, the creditor agency must do the following:

(1) The creditor agency must certify, in writing, that the employee owes the debt, the amount and basis of the debt, the date on which payment(s) is due, the date the Government's right to collect the debt first accrued, and that the creditor agency's regulations implementing 5 U.S.C. 5514 have been approved by OPM.

(2) If the collection must be made in installments, the creditor agency also must advise the paying agency of the amount or percentage of disposable pay to be collected in each installment, and if the creditor agency wishes, the number and the commencing date of the installments (if a date other than the next officially established pay period is required).

(3) Unless the employee has consented to the salary offset in writing or signed a statement acknowledging receipt of the required procedures and the written consent or statement is forwarded to the paying agency, the creditor agency also must advise the paying agency of the action(s) taken under 5 U.S.C. 5514 and give the date(s) the action(s) was taken.

(4) Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, the creditor agency must submit a debt claim containing the information specified in paragraphs (a) (1) through (3) of this section and an installment agreement (or other instruction on the payment schedule), if applicable, to the employee's paying agency.

(5) If the employee is in the process of separating, the creditor agency must submit its debt claim to the employee's paying agency for collection as provided in §550.1104(1). The paying agency must certify the total amount of its collection and notify the creditor agency and the employee as provided in paragraph (c)(1) of this section. If the paying agency is aware that the employee is entitled to payments from the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, or other similar payments, it must provide written notification to the agency responsible for making such payments that the debtor owes a debt (including the amount) and that the provisions of this section have been fully complied with. However, the creditor agency must submit a properly certified claim to the agency responsible for making such payments before the collection can be made.

(6) If the employee is already separated and all payments due from his or her former paying agency have been paid, the creditor agency may request, unless otherwise prohibited, that money due and payable to the employee from the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (5 CFR 831.1801 et seq.), or other similar funds, be administratively offset to collect the debt. (See 31 U.S.C. 3716 and the FCCS.)

(b) Responsibilities of paying agency—(1) Complete claim. When the paying agency receives a properly certified debt claim from a creditor agency, deductions should be scheduled to begin prospectively at the next officially established pay interval. The employee must receive written notice that the paying agency has received a certified debt claim from the creditor agency (including the amount) and written notice of the date deductions from salary will commence and of the amount of such deductions.

(2) Incomplete claim. When the paying agency receives an incomplete debt claim from a creditor agency, the paying agency must return the debt claim with a notice that procedures under 5 U.S.C. 5514 and this subpart must be provided and a properly certified debt claim received before action will be taken to collect from the employee's current pay account.

(3) Review. The paying agency is not required or authorized to review the merits of the determination with respect to the amount or validity of the debt certified by the creditor agency.

(c) Employees who transfer from one paying agency to another. (1) If, after the creditor agency has submitted the debt claim to the employee's paying agency, the employee transfers to a position served by a different paying agency before the debt is collected in full, the paying agency from which the employee separates must certify the total amount of the collection made on the debt. One copy of the certification must be furnished to the employee, another to the creditor agency along with notice of the employee's transfer. However, the creditor agency must submit a properly certified claim to the new paying agency before collection can be resumed.

(2) When an employee transfers to another paying agency, the creditor agency need not repeat the due process procedures described by 5 U.S.C. 5514 and this subpart to resume the collection. However, the creditor agency is responsible for reviewing the debt upon receiving the former paying agency's notice of the employee's transfer to make sure the collection is resumed by the new paying agency.

[51 FR 21325, June 12, 1986. Redesignated and amended at 63 FR 72100, Dec. 31, 1998]

§550.1110   Debt collection centers.

A debt collection center may act in behalf of a creditor agency to collect claims via salary offset consistent with this section, subject to any limitations on its authority established by the creditor agency it represents or by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

(a) A debt collection center may be authorized to enter into a written agreement with the indebted employee regarding the repayment schedule or, in the absence of such agreement, to establish the terms of the repayment schedule.

(b) A debt collection center may make certifications to the Secretary of the Treasury under §550.1108 or to a paying agency under §550.1109 based on the certifications it has received from the creditor agency or a hearing official.

(c) A debt collection center responsible for collecting a particular debt may not act in behalf of a creditor agency for the purpose of making determinations regarding the existence or amount of that debt.

(d) A debt collection center responsible for collecting a particular debt may arrange for a hearing on the existence or amount of the debt or the repayment schedule by an administrative law judge or, alternatively, another hearing official not under the supervision or control of the head of the creditor agency or the debt collection center.

[63 FR 72101, Dec. 31, 1998]



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