No longer will a single sentence make tax day even more miserable for hundreds of thousands of Americans—for now, at least. Late last week, the Washington Post reported on a recent Treasury Department practice made possible by a single sentence lurking in the 2008 farm bill: seizing tax refunds from Americans who were being forced to repay debts, in many cases Social Security benefits, their parents allegedly racked up. That farm-bill line removed the 10-year statute of limitations on debt owed to the government, and the Social Security Administration yesterday said it would halt its effort to collect on debts that are older than a decade, the Post reports.
The stop is "pending a thorough review of our responsibility and discretion under the current law," says acting Social Security commissioner Carolyn Colvin, who added that anyone who “believes they have been incorrectly assessed with an overpayment” should contact the agency. Last week's article told of taxpayers who were given no notice or explanation before their monies were seized to pay debts their dead parents incurred; in one case, a notice was reportedly sent, to a PO Box last used in 1979. After publication, hundreds more stories came to light, the Post reports, and those taxpayers took their issues to Congress; several of its members raised a ruckus. (Read more bureaucracy stories.)