A very small footnote has hit the news, and it impacts very few people, relatively speaking, but we think it may mark the beginning of a very different attitude on the part of our government.
The social security agency has said it will no longer pursue debt by taxpayers, more than 10 years old.
Last year, just over 400,000 taxpayers, for example, had their refunds taken to pay back due social security, more than 10 years old.
What is so very interesting about this, is that debt to the government has always been debt that will simply never go away.
Student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy is one of the most glaring examples.
This appears to be one of the few times that the government is self imposing an equivalent of statue of limitations on how long they have to collect a debt.
Now, as debt collectors in the private sector, we are always subject to the statute of limitations, and it is no “equivalent” but hard and fast.
I’m not sure how we feel about this, frankly. Should debtors of any kind get a free ride after a certain amount of time? Like all unpaid debt, it drives up costs for those of us who routinely pay our debts in the form of higher prices or higher interest. Should I bear the expense of someone else not paying their taxes, or should you?
On the other hand, shouldn’t our government be subject to rational rules around what is and isn’t collectible? We in the private sector absolutely are?
It’s an interesting question, and I hope that some of my colleagues and clients will forward an opinion.
Until next time