Child Support Enforcement: Clear Guidance Would Help Ensure Proper Access To Information and Use of Wage Withholding by Private Firms

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A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "To increase child support collections, Congress has considered proposals to improve the ability of private firms to gather information to help locate noncustodial parents and enforce the payment of child support. At the end of fiscal year 2000, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) indicated that $89 billion in child support was owed but unpaid--a 96-percent increase since the end of fiscal year 1996. GAO believes that this amount is understated. Thousands of private and public sector entities can collect child support. Both private firms ... continued below

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United States. General Accounting Office. March 26, 2002.

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A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "To increase child support collections, Congress has considered proposals to improve the ability of private firms to gather information to help locate noncustodial parents and enforce the payment of child support. At the end of fiscal year 2000, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) indicated that $89 billion in child support was owed but unpaid--a 96-percent increase since the end of fiscal year 1996. GAO believes that this amount is understated. Thousands of private and public sector entities can collect child support. Both private firms and state agencies reported collections from about 60 percent of their cases. Twenty-two of the 24 private firms GAO reviewed reported that they relied on private information vendors--commercial firms that sell information such as addresses, telephone numbers, and social security numbers--as their primary information source, whereas about one-third of state agencies reported using this source. State agencies relied heavily on state and federal automated databases to locate noncustodial parents and their assets. Additionally, private firms and the state agencies reported calling noncustodial parents to collect child support. However, only the private firms called third parties, such as relatives and neighbors of noncustodial parents to persuade them to prevail upon the noncustodial parent to make payments. The same enforcement tools are available to private firms and state agencies, but the process that they follow in using these tools often differ. Private firms, however, do not have access to federal tax refunds. Officials from both private firms and state agencies reported that the tool they most often use was wage withholding. However, the form and related guidance developed by OCSE for use in wage withholding make it difficult for employers to determine whether it is proper to begin withholding wages. Most of the state agencies had not provided information on noncustodial parents' location or assets from the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS). Practices for sharing with private firms were affected by differences in interpretation of whether federal law permits or requires state agencies to share FPLS data."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • March 26, 2002

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  • June 11, 2014, 5:03 a.m.

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United States. General Accounting Office. Child Support Enforcement: Clear Guidance Would Help Ensure Proper Access To Information and Use of Wage Withholding by Private Firms, report, March 26, 2002; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc290979/: accessed December 15, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.