REXBURG, Idaho - What would you do if you had to pay a stranger's debt?
Paulette Kirkham, of Rexburg, said she had almost $5,000 of her tax refund seized for her estranged father's bill, 35 years after she said he committed Social Security fraud.
There have been many cases across the nation in which the IRS is withholding millions of dollars in tax refunds to pay back Social Security debts. The Senate-passed 2008 farm bill had a section, on pages 96 and 97, that is being used to collect Social Security debts owed by people who are dead. Although the government has stopped seizing money from family members, many want to know if they will ever get their money back.
"I remember hearing all the time that my father was good for nothing, and she (Kirkham's mother) never got a dime from him," she said. "So then for her to not get anything after working several jobs and trying to raise us, I'm now having to repay a debt for him. That kind of added insult to injury."
Kirkham has contacted both U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson. Both of them voted for the farm bill, but each office said It didn't know what the treasury was up to.
A statement from Simpson's office read:
"When Congress learned the Social Security Administration was claiming tax refunds of Americans who did nothing wrong, many complained to the Agency. Congressman Simpson is pleased that the SSA has suspended the 'recouping' program while the agency conducts a review."
Although Crapo's office didn't have a comment on the bill, it sent a statement that said:
"After consulting with our DC office, our only comment would be for any Idahoans affected by this to contact Social Security directly. If they do not receive a satisfactory response, please contact our offices for further assistance with the agency."
Since 2011 the Treasury has collected more than $400 million on old Social Security accounts. The Social Security Administration announced in April that it would stop its "recoup" plan. But there has been no word on whether the 400,000 taxpayers that were ordered to pay up will get their money back.