Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
June 10, 2014  
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Boxer Introduces Bill to Stop the Social Security Administration from Seizing Taxpayers' Refunds to Make Up for Decades-Old Errors  

Taxpayers Should Not Be Unfairly Punished for Overpayments to Deceased Relatives

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today introduced the Social Security Overpayments Fairness Act of 2014, legislation that would prohibit the Social Security Administration (SSA) from seizing the refunds of taxpayers to make up for decades-old errors made by the agency that led to the overpayment of benefits. 

“The Social Security Administration should not unjustly penalize innocent Americans by seizing tax refunds to fix decades-old mistakes by the agency,” Senator Boxer said. “This legislation will prohibit taxpayers’ refunds from being garnished to pay for debts that were incurred through no fault of their own.”  

In April of this year, Boxer and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) wrote to SSA Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin after The Washington Post detailed the case of Mary Grice of Takoma Park, Maryland, whose tax refund was reportedly seized by the U.S. government to repay an overpayment of benefits made to an unknown member of her family in 1977. Following the letter, Acting Commissioner Colvin announced “an immediate halt” to the policy of garnishing taxpayers’ refunds, pending a thorough review of the practice by the agency.

The garnishments were possible because of a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill, which allowed federal government agencies to pursue debts beyond what had previously been a ten-year statute of limitations. Senator Boxer’s bill will reinstate the 10-year statute of limitations on refund garnishment for Social Security-related debts if the recipient is not at fault, and prohibit the agency from recovering any overpayment from the beneficiary if it was made while the beneficiary was under the age of 18.