Gov't says North Augusta man owes debt 50 years old

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Thursday April 17, 2014


John Collins of North Augusta lost his father in a car wreck when he was only 18 months old in 1958. Today, he’s on the hook for social security overpayments made immediately following his dad’s death.

“It was on a Saturday afternoon,” recalled Collins, “I went and got the mail and I saw Treasury Department and I said ‘what could this be?’”

For years, debts from over payments made by the government for social security or disability were considered forgiven if they weren’t collected after 10 years. But a single line introduced in the Farm Bill from 2008 did away with that statue, allowing the government to recoup debts going back farther than 20 years.

“They lifted that thing and phew,”said Collins, “they took off. They were on go.”

But Collins isn’t alone; more than 400,000 Americans are now subject to pay back these unpaid debts. More than $700 million is on the line with these debts.

“Why does this come out now,” Collins asked,” why haven't you contacted me within the last 40 years?”

The way the IRS is reclaiming these debts is what Collins has a problem with most of all.
Currently, any unpaid debts by taxpayer can be seized by simply withdrawing the funds from the person in question’s tax refund with little notice. This is has been the first year of the practice.

“If you say we owe it--contact us and show me the record,” said Collins, “then we'll talk. But just to snatch people's stuff without them knowing. It’s skuzzy.”

Earlier this week the program was temporarily suspended because of widespread outrage but as the statute currently stands, the government is within their legal right to seize those funds.

“There's an old saying,” Collins recalled, “just cause you can do a thing doesn't mean you should do it.”