Nightmare: Feds seizing money from children for old debts of their parents

Thomas Lifson
In a case that is a perfect storm illustration of an arbitrary and incompetent federal government running roughshod over its citizens, “a single sentence tucked into the farm bill” had led to outrageous behavior. Marc Fisher of the Washington Post:

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.

Mary Grice is just unlucky, I guess. The feds want some money, and her name popped up, not those of her siblings.  Tough luck when you get on the wrong side of the government.  Her plight is not unique:

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.

The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years….

The feds are making up their own rules, and justice or personal responsibility are less important than the convenience of the bureaucrats:

Social Security officials told Grice that six people — Grice, her four siblings and her father’s first wife, whom she never knew — had received benefits under her father’s account. The government doesn’t look into exactly who got the overpayment; the policy is to seek compensation from the oldest sibling and work down through the family until the debt is paid.

The Federal Trade Commission, on its Web site, advises Americans that “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.” But Social Security officials say that if children indirectly received assistance from public dollars paid to a parent, the children’s money can be taken, no matter how long ago any overpayment occurred.

It doesn’t even matter if the parents took the money and went on a bender, the kids are stuck with the bill, on the theory that they should have received the benefit and it would be too complicated for the bureaucrats if they had to actually, you know, prove that they had benefitted even as an infant. The most important thing, after all, is that the government get the money it wants.

Will anyone in the GOP wake up and start a crusade against this obvious government run amok travesty? Of course, how many of them voted for the “farm bill”?

In a case that is a perfect storm illustration of an arbitrary and incompetent federal government running roughshod over its citizens, “a single sentence tucked into the farm bill” had led to outrageous behavior. Marc Fisher of the Washington Post:

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.

Mary Grice is just unlucky, I guess. The feds want some money, and her name popped up, not those of her siblings.  Tough luck when you get on the wrong side of the government.  Her plight is not unique:

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.

The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years….

The feds are making up their own rules, and justice or personal responsibility are less important than the convenience of the bureaucrats:

Social Security officials told Grice that six people — Grice, her four siblings and her father’s first wife, whom she never knew — had received benefits under her father’s account. The government doesn’t look into exactly who got the overpayment; the policy is to seek compensation from the oldest sibling and work down through the family until the debt is paid.

The Federal Trade Commission, on its Web site, advises Americans that “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.” But Social Security officials say that if children indirectly received assistance from public dollars paid to a parent, the children’s money can be taken, no matter how long ago any overpayment occurred.

It doesn’t even matter if the parents took the money and went on a bender, the kids are stuck with the bill, on the theory that they should have received the benefit and it would be too complicated for the bureaucrats if they had to actually, you know, prove that they had benefitted even as an infant. The most important thing, after all, is that the government get the money it wants.

Will anyone in the GOP wake up and start a crusade against this obvious government run amok travesty? Of course, how many of them voted for the “farm bill”?