NTEU Backs Call for FTC Investigation of Private Debt Collection Agencies

Press Release July 11, 2017

Washington, D.C – The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) applauds those U.S. senators who have asked for a government review of the private debt collection agencies now under contract with the Internal Revenue Service.

Four Senators, in a July 10 letter led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the collection agencies are violating the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. Their request references prepared telephone scripts in which taxpayers are subjected to undue pressure.

“I am particularly concerned that these call scripts may include implied threats to taxpayers, violations of taxpayer privacy protections due to information shared with third parties, and inadequate responses to taxpayer cease and desist requests,” the letter states. It was signed by Warren, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for enforcing the law against the use of abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices.

NTEU has urged Congress to end the mandate that the IRS use for-profit companies to pursue federal tax debt from American taxpayers. The program shortchanges the U.S. Treasury because the companies collect a commission of up to 25 percent; it opens new doors for scammers to impersonate IRS personnel; it disproportionately targets low-income taxpayers; and it exposes taxpayers’ private data.

“This is a job for the dedicated, professional civil servants of the IRS because -- unlike private contractors -- they are specially trained to help bring taxpayers into compliance with compassion and fairness,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “We are glad that some in Congress are aware of the harm that can come from privatizing certain government functions, and we believe Congress will once again abandon this bad idea.”

NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 31 federal agencies and departments.