U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
Regulations most recently checked for updates: Oct 04, 2023
(a) Written demand as described in paragraph (b) of this section shall be made promptly upon a debtor of the United States in terms that inform the debtor of the consequences of failing to cooperate with the agency to resolve the debt. The specific content, timing, and number of demand letters shall depend upon the type and amount of the debt and the debtor's response, if any, to the agency's letters or telephone calls. Generally, one demand letter should suffice. In determining the timing of the demand letter(s), agencies should give due regard to the need to refer debts promptly to the Department of Justice for litigation, in accordance with § 904.1 of this chapter or otherwise. When necessary to protect the Government's interest (for example, to prevent the running of a statute of limitations), written demand may be preceded by other appropriate actions under parts 900–904 of this chapter, including immediate referral for litigation.
(b) Demand letters shall inform the debtor of:
(1) The basis for the indebtedness and the rights, if any, the debtor may have to seek review within the agency;
(2) The applicable standards for imposing any interest, penalties, or administrative costs;
(3) The date by which payment should be made to avoid late charges (i.e. interest, penalties, and administrative costs) and enforced collection, which generally should not be more than 30 days from the date that the demand letter is mailed or hand-delivered; and
(4) The name, address, and phone number of a contact person or office within the agency.
(c) Agencies should exercise care to ensure that demand letters are mailed or hand-delivered on the same day that they are dated. There is no prescribed format for demand letters. Agencies should utilize demand letters and procedures that will lead to the earliest practicable determination of whether the debt can be resolved administratively or must be referred for litigation.
(d) Agencies should include in demand letters such items as the agency's willingness to discuss alternative methods of payment; its policies with respect to the use of credit bureaus, debt collection centers, and collection agencies; the agency's remedies to enforce payment of the debt (including assessment of interest, administrative costs and penalties, administrative garnishment, the use of collection agencies, Federal salary offset, tax refund offset, administrative offset, and litigation); the requirement that any debt delinquent for more than 180 days be transferred to the Department of the Treasury for collection; and, depending on applicable statutory authority, the debtor's entitlement to consideration of a waiver.
(e) Agencies should respond promptly to communications from debtors, within 30 days whenever feasible, and should advise debtors who dispute debts to furnish available evidence to support their contentions.
(f) Prior to the initiation of the demand process or at any time during or after completion of the demand process, if an agency determines to pursue, or is required to pursue, offset, the procedures applicable to offset should be followed (see § 901.3). The availability of funds or money for debt satisfaction by offset and the agency's determination to pursue collection by offset shall release the agency from the necessity of further compliance with paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (d) of this section.
(g) Prior to referring a debt for litigation, agencies should advise each person determined to be liable for the debt that, unless the debt can be collected administratively, litigation may be initiated. This notification should comply with Executive Order 12988 (3 CFR, 1996 Comp., pp. 157–163) and may be given as part of a demand letter under paragraph (b) of this section or in a separate document. Litigation counsel for the Government should be advised that this notice has been given.
(h) When an agency learns that a bankruptcy petition has been filed with respect to a debtor, before proceeding with further collection action, the agency should immediately seek legal advice from its agency counsel concerning the impact of the Bankruptcy Code on any pending or contemplated collection activities. Unless the agency determines that the automatic stay imposed at the time of filing pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 362 has been lifted or is no longer in effect, in most cases collection activity against the debtor should stop immediately.
(1) After seeking legal advice, a proof of claim should be filed in most cases with the bankruptcy court or the Trustee. Agencies should refer to the provisions of 11 U.S.C. 106 relating to the consequences on sovereign immunity of filing a proof of claim.
(2) If the agency is a secured creditor, it may seek relief from the automatic stay regarding its security, subject to the provisions and requirements of 11 U.S.C. 362.
(3) Offset is stayed in most cases by the automatic stay. However, agencies should seek legal advice from their agency counsel to determine whether their payments to the debtor and payments of other agencies available for offset may be frozen by the agency until relief from the automatic stay can be obtained from the bankruptcy court. Agencies also should seek legal advice from their agency counsel to determine whether recoupment is available.