Uncle Sam Revives Feudal Practice to Collect From Children of Debtors
...A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice's tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government—a very old debt.
When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.
Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family—it's not sure who—in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary's money, rather than her surviving siblings', is a mystery.
Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters like the one Grice got, informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents—the government has confiscated their check....
Shakedown: Treasury now seizing tax refunds from adult children to pay parents’ decades-old Social Security debts
...How can they demand restitution for a mistaken payment made in the late 1970s, let alone from someone who didn’t even receive it? Because: The farm bill that passed in 2011 lifted the 10-year statute of limitations on debts owed to the feds. Treasury has collected more than $400 million since then on very old obligations, many of them below the radar of public scrutiny because the amounts are often small enough, i.e. a few hundred dollars, that the targets find it’s cheaper to pay up than to fight. It’s a shakedown, based on the flawed assumption that a child not only must have benefited from the overpayment to his parent but that he/she received the entirety of the benefit, with little proof offered that the debt even exists. (One man who was forced to pay demanded a receipt from SSA affirming that his balance was now zero. The SSA clerk told him he’d put in the request but that the man shouldn’t expect to receive anything.)...