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e-CFR data is current as of October 23, 2020

Title 47Chapter ISubchapter APart 1Subpart O → §1.1936

Title 47: Telecommunication
Subpart O—Collection of Claims Owed the United States

§1.1936   Administrative wage garnishment.

(a) Purpose. This section provides procedures for the Commission to collect money from a debtor's disposable pay by means of administrative wage garnishment to satisfy delinquent non-tax debt owed to the United States.

(b) Scope. (1) This section applies to Commission-administered programs that give rise to a delinquent nontax debt owed to the United States and to the Commission's pursuit of recovery of such debt.

(2) This section shall apply notwithstanding any provision of State law.

(3) Nothing in this section precludes the compromise of a debt or the suspension or termination of collection action in accordance with applicable law. See, for example, the Federal Claims Collection Standards (FCCS), 31 CFR parts 900 through 904.

(4) The receipt of payments pursuant to this section does not preclude the Commission from pursuing other debt collection remedies, including the offset of Federal payments to satisfy delinquent nontax debt owed to the United States. The Commission may pursue such debt collection remedies separately or in conjunction with administrative wage garnishment.

(5) This section does not apply to the collection of delinquent nontax debt owed to the Commission from the wages of Federal employees from their Federal employment. Federal pay is subject to the Federal salary offset procedures set forth in 5 U.S.C. 5514, §§1.1925 through 1.1935, and other applicable laws.

(6) Nothing in this section requires the Commission to duplicate notices or administrative proceedings required by contract or other laws or regulations.

(c) Definitions. In addition to the definitions set forth in §1.1901 as used in this section, the following definitions shall apply:

(1) Business day means Monday through Friday. For purposes of computation, the last day of the period will be included unless it is a Federal legal holiday.

(2) Certificate of service means a certificate signed by a Commission official indicating the nature of the document to which it pertains, the date of mailing of the document, and to whom the document is being sent.

(3) Day means calendar day. For purposes of computation, the last day of the period will be included unless it is a Saturday, a Sunday, or a Federal legal holiday.

(4) Disposable pay means that part of the debtor's compensation (including, but not limited to, salary, bonuses, commissions, and vacation pay) from an employer remaining after the deduction of health insurance premiums and any amounts required by law to be withheld.

(5) Amounts required by law to be withheld include amounts for deductions such as social security taxes and withholding taxes, but do not include any amount withheld pursuant to a court order.

(6) Employer means a person or entity that employs the services of others and that pays their wages or salaries. The term employer includes, but is not limited to, State and local Governments, but does not include an agency of the Federal Government.

(7) Garnishment means the process of withholding amounts from an employee's disposable pay and the paying of those amounts to a creditor in satisfaction of a withholding order.

(8) Withholding order means any order for withholding or garnishment of pay issued by an agency, or judicial or administrative body. For purposes of this section, the terms “wage garnishment order” and “garnishment order” have the same meaning as “withholding order.”

(d) General rule. Whenever the Commission determines that a delinquent debt is owed by an individual, the Commission may initiate proceedings administratively to garnish the wages of the delinquent debtor as governed by procedures prescribed by 31 CFR 285. Wage garnishment will usually be performed for the Commission by the Treasury as part of the debt collection processes for Commission debts referred to Treasury for further collection action.

(e) Notice requirements. (1) At least 30 days before the initiation of garnishment proceedings, the Commission shall mail, by first class mail, to the debtor's last known address a written notice informing the debtor of:

(i) The nature and amount of the debt;

(ii) The intention of the Commission to initiate proceedings to collect the debt through deductions from pay until the debt and all accumulated interest, penalties and administrative costs are paid in full; and

(iii) An explanation of the debtor's rights, including those set forth in paragraph (e)(2) of this section, and the time frame within which the debtor may exercise his or her rights.

(2) The debtor shall be afforded the opportunity:

(i) To inspect and copy agency records related to the debt;

(ii) To enter into a written repayment agreement with the Commission under terms agreeable to the Commission; and

(iii) For a hearing in accordance with paragraph (f) of this section concerning the existence or the amount of the debt or the terms of the proposed repayment schedule under the garnishment order. However, the debtor is not entitled to a hearing concerning the terms of the proposed repayment schedule if these terms have been established by written agreement under paragraph (e)(2)(ii) of this section.

(3) The Commission will keep a copy of a certificate of service indicating the date of mailing of the notice. The certificate of service may be retained electronically so long as the manner of retention is sufficient for evidentiary purposes.

(f) Hearing. Pursuant to 31 CFR 285.11(f)(1), the Commission hereby adopts by reference the hearing procedures of 31 CFR 285.11(f).

(g) Wage garnishment order. (1) Unless the Commission receives information that the Commission believes justifies a delay or cancellation of the withholding order, the Commission will send, by first class mail, a withholding order to the debtor's employer within 30 days after the debtor fails to make a timely request for a hearing (i.e., within 15 business days after the mailing of the notice described in paragraph (e)(1) of this section), or, if a timely request for a hearing is made by the debtor, within 30 days after a final decision is made by the Commission to proceed with garnishment, or as soon as reasonably possible thereafter.

(2) The withholding order sent to the employer under paragraph (g)(1) of this section shall be in a form prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury on the Commission's letterhead and signed by the head of the Commission or his/her delegate. The order shall contain only the information necessary for the employer to comply with the withholding order, including the debtor's name, address, and social security number, as well as instructions for withholding and information as to where payments should be sent.

(3) The Commission will keep a copy of a certificate of service indicating the date of mailing of the order. The certificate of service may be retained electronically so long as the manner of retention is sufficient for evidentiary purposes.

(h) Certification by employer. Along with the withholding order, the Commission shall send to the employer a certification in a form prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury. The employer shall complete and return the certification to the Commission within the time frame prescribed in the instructions to the form addressing matters such as information about the debtor's employment status and disposable pay available for withholding.

(i) Amounts withheld. (1) After receipt of the garnishment order issued under this section, the employer shall deduct from all disposable pay paid to the applicable debtor during each pay period the amount of garnishment described in paragraph (i)(2) of this section.

(2) Subject to the provisions of paragraphs (i)(3) and (i)(4) of this section, the amount of garnishment shall be the lesser of:

(i) The amount indicated on the garnishment order up to 15% of the debtor's disposable pay; or

(ii) The amount set forth in 15 U.S.C. 1673(a)(2) (Restriction on Garnishment). The amount set forth at 15 U.S.C. 1673(a)(2) is the amount by which a debtor's disposable pay exceeds an amount equivalent to thirty times the minimum wage. See 29 CFR 870.10.

(3) When a debtor's pay is subject to withholding orders with priority the following shall apply:

(i) Unless otherwise provided by Federal law, withholding orders issued under this section shall be paid in the amounts set forth under paragraph (i)(2) of this section and shall have priority over other withholding orders which are served later in time. Notwithstanding the foregoing, withholding orders for family support shall have priority over withholding orders issued under this section.

(ii) If amounts are being withheld from a debtor's pay pursuant to a withholding order served on an employer before a withholding order issued pursuant to this section, or if a withholding order for family support is served on an employer at any time, the amounts withheld pursuant to the withholding order issued under this section shall be the lesser of:

(A) The amount calculated under paragraph (i)(2) of this section, or

(B) An amount equal to 25% of the debtor's disposable pay less the amount(s) withheld under the withholding order(s) with priority.

(iii) If a debtor owes more than one debt to the Commission, the Commission may issue multiple withholding orders provided that the total amount garnished from the debtor's pay for such orders does not exceed the amount set forth in paragraph (i)(2) of this section. For purposes of this paragraph (i)(3)(iii), the term agency refers to the Commission that is owed the debt.

(4) An amount greater than that set forth in paragraphs (i)(2) and (i)(3) of this section may be withheld upon the written consent of debtor.

(5) The employer shall promptly pay to the Commission all amounts withheld in accordance with the withholding order issued pursuant to this section.

(6) An employer shall not be required to vary its normal pay and disbursement cycles in order to comply with the withholding order.

(7) Any assignment or allotment by an employee of his earnings shall be void to the extent it interferes with or prohibits execution of the withholding order issued under this section, except for any assignment or allotment made pursuant to a family support judgment or order.

(8) The employer shall withhold the appropriate amount from the debtor's wages for each pay period until the employer receives notification from the Commission to discontinue wage withholding. The garnishment order shall indicate a reasonable period of time within which the employer is required to commence wage withholding.

(j) Exclusions from garnishment. The Commission may not garnish the wages of a debtor who it knows has been involuntarily separated from employment until the debtor has been reemployed continuously for at least 12 months. The debtor has the burden of informing the Commission of the circumstances surrounding an involuntary separation from employment.

(k) Financial hardship. (1) A debtor whose wages are subject to a wage withholding order under this section, may, at any time, request a review by the Commission of the amount garnished, based on materially changed circumstances such as disability, divorce, or catastrophic illness which result in demonstrated financial hardship.

(2) A debtor requesting a review under paragraph (k)(1) of this section shall submit the basis for claiming that the current amount of garnishment results in demonstrated financial hardship to the debtor, along with supporting documentation. The Commission will consider any information submitted; however, demonstrated financial hardship must be based on financial records that include Federal and state tax returns, affidavits executed under the pain and penalty of perjury, and, in the case of business-related financial hardship (e.g., the debtor is a partner or member of a business-agency relationship) full financial statements (audited and/or submitted under oath) in accordance with procedures and standards established by the Commission.

(3) If a financial hardship is found, the Commission will downwardly adjust, by an amount and for a period of time agreeable to the Commission, the amount garnisheed to reflect the debtor's financial condition. The Commission will notify the employer of any adjustments to the amounts to be withheld.

(l) Ending garnishment. (1) Once the Commission has fully recovered the amounts owed by the debtor, including interest, penalties, and administrative costs consistent with the FCCS, the Commission will send the debtor's employer notification to discontinue wage withholding.

(2) At least annually, the Commission shall review its debtors' accounts to ensure that garnishment has been terminated for accounts that have been paid in full.

(m) Actions prohibited by the employer. An employer may not discharge, refuse to employ, or take disciplinary action against the debtor due to the issuance of a withholding order under this section.

(n) Refunds. (1) If a hearing official, at a hearing held pursuant to paragraph (f)(3) of this section, determines that a debt is not legally due and owing to the United States, the Commission shall promptly refund any amount collected by means of administrative wage garnishment.

(2) Unless required by Federal law or contract, refunds under this section shall not bear interest.

(o) Right of action. The Commission may sue any employer for any amount that the employer fails to withhold from wages owed and payable to an employee in accordance with paragraphs (g) and (i) of this section. However, a suit may not be filed before the termination of the collection action involving a particular debtor, unless earlier filing is necessary to avoid expiration of any applicable statute of limitations period. For purposes of this section, “termination of the collection action” occurs when the Commission has terminated collection action in accordance with the FCCS or other applicable standards. In any event, termination of the collection action will have been deemed to occur if the Commission has not received any payments to satisfy the debt from the particular debtor whose wages were subject to garnishment, in whole or in part, for a period of one (1) year.

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