Common Questions: Treasury Offset Program (TOP)
Questions Most Frequently Asked by the Public
Why is Treasury contacting me about my debt owed to another government agency?
The Financial Management Service, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, serves as the government's central debt collection agency, maintaining the government's delinquent debts. One of the ways used by FMS to collect delinquent debt is the Treasury Offset Program or TOP. Under TOP, FMS matches a database of delinquent debtors against payments issued by Treasury. With a match, recipients of federal payments who also owe delinquent debts have their payment withheld or reduced to satisfy the debt.
When is a debt sent to the Treasury Offset Program?
In most cases, your name can be sent to TOP if your debt is more than 90 days delinquent. The government agency must determine that your debt is valid and legally enforceable. The agency must send you notices about your debt and provide you with opportunities to resolve or dispute your debt. The agency must also respond to questions and inquiries regarding your debt. If you have not received a notice about your debt, you must call the agency to which you owe the debt.
How does the Treasury Offset Program work?
If you owe a delinquent debt to a government agency, that agency sends information about your debt to our database.
Before you receive a federal payment, the database is searched to see if you owe a delinquent debt.
If your debt is in the database, FMS will reduce or withhold your federal payment to pay your debt.
When your payment is taken, a letter will be sent to you regarding the action.
What kinds of federal payments can be reduced?
Depending upon the type of debt you owe, the following federal payments may be eligible for offset or levy:
wages, including military pay
retirement, including military retirement pay
travel advances and reimbursements
certain federal benefit payments, including Social Security benefits (other than Supplemental Security Income), Railroad Retirement benefits (other than tier 2), and Black Lung (part B benefits)
other federal payments that are not exempt by law or by action of the Secretary of the Treasury.
Federal law limits the amount that may be withheld from some types of federal payments.
My federal payment was reduced two months ago and the agency I owe hasn't received the money yet. Where is it?
Funds collected by FMS from your federal payment are transmitted to the headquarters or central debt facility of the agency and are distributed by that agency. The agency must contact its headquarters for assistance in tracking the funds.
Whom should I contact regarding my debt?
Contact the federal or state agency collecting the debt which is listed in the notice you received. If you need information about whom to contact, call the TOP Call Center toll free at (800) 304-3107. If your debt has been paid in full, or if you do not owe the debt for other reasons, the agency collecting the debt is responsible for instructing Treasury to stop the offset process. They are also responsible for returning to you any part of your payment that should not have been reduced.
What does the TOP Call Center do?
We have staff at the FMS Treasury Offset Program who are here to help you understand the process, including what you need to do next. Although we cannot make arrangements for you to pay off your debt, tell you how much you owe, or refund your money, we can tell you whom to call. We will not tell anyone but you about your debts, unless you tell us to.
How does a debtor know that he/she is in the Treasury Offset Program delinquent debtor database?
Before a creditor agency refers a debt to the Treasury Offset Program, it will have provided the debtor with all due process notices concerning the debt. These notices include: written notification of the nature and amount of the debt, the intention of the agency to collect the debt through administrative offset, and an explanation of the debtor's rights (inspection, copying, review and repayment opportunities). The creditor agency has therefore informed the delinquent debtor of the potential referral of the debt to the Treasury Offset Program. Once in the Treasury Offset Program, the debtor will be informed by Treasury when an offset is taken.
There may be other notices published or mailed to debtors if Treasury determines they are needed, but none are required by law except those stated above.
A person is also entitled at any time to inquire in writing whether he/she is in the delinquent debtor database maintained by Treasury and he/she will be answered in writing by Treasury.