I Am A Federal Contractor And I Defaulted On An Sba Loan Years Ago Can The Treasury Offset My Contract Payments[yoast-breadcrumb]
I Am A Federal Contractor And I Defaulted On An SBA Loan Years Ago – Can The Treasury Offset My Contract Payments?
If you’re a federal contractor who defaulted on an SBA-backed loan years ago, you may be wondering if the Treasury Department can seize your government contract payments through an administrative offset. This issue comes up often for contractors who obtain SBA financing, hit hard times, and now have federal payment obligations. Here’s what you need to know about how Treasury offset works and your options if you face this situation.
The Treasury Offset Program
Under the Treasury Offset Program (TOP), the government can seize certain federal payments to collect on overdue debts owed to federal agencies or the states. This includes federal tax refunds, Social Security benefits, and payments to federal contractors or vendors. So if you defaulted on an SBA loan, even years ago, the unpaid debt is eligible for TOP collection.
Time Limits On Collection
The government can collect on defaulted SBA loans through TOP until the debt is paid or expires. The time limits are:
- 10 years from loan maturity date for unsecured SBA loans.
- 20 years from loan maturity date for secured SBA loans.
So for example, if you took out a $100,000 unsecured SBA loan that matured on January 1, 2010 and never repaid it, the government could offset payments until January 1, 2020 to satisfy the debt.
Before offsetting your contract payments, the Treasury Department must:
- Notify you that your debt is eligible for referral to TOP.
- Give you opportunity to dispute the debt or make payment arrangements.
- Confirm that you didn’t dispute or repay within 60 days.
- Certify the debt to TOP for collection.
You should receive written notices at each step advising you of the pending offset. This gives you chances to act before the offset occurs.
Contractor Payment Vulnerability
As a federal contractor, a significant portion of your income comes from government contract payments. This makes you highly vulnerable to Treasury offsets to collect defaulted SBA debts. It’s possible for the government to garnish up to 100% of your contract payments until the debt is recovered.
You have limited defenses against a Treasury offset, but some options include:
- Disputing the debt validity or amount owed.
- Asserting the collection period expired.
- Arguing offset would cause financial hardship.
- Negotiating a reasonable repayment plan.
To make your case, you must quickly respond to all offset notices and provide supporting documentation. Hiring legal counsel familiar with SBA debt collection issues may help bolster your defense.
Other Collection Methods
Beyond Treasury offset, the government has other tools to collect defaulted SBA loans like:
- Administrative wage garnishment of up to 15% of your disposable pay.
- Filing a lawsuit against you to obtain a court judgment.
- Seizing and liquidating your assets like property, equipment, or inventory.
So even if you avoid the Treasury offset, the unpaid SBA loan can still haunt you through these alternate collection routes.
Seeking Relief Under SBA Guidance
One option may be asking the SBA itself for relief, if the default was beyond your control. SBA guidance gives its loan officers some discretion to compromise, suspend or terminate collection in cases of hardship or failure to properly service the loan. This can include reducing the amount owed. While not guaranteed, it’s worth exploring directly with the SBA.
Prevent Future Issues
Moving forward, it’s wise to take steps to avoid further credit and cash flow problems like:
- Consulting attorneys and accountants for guidance.
- Setting up payment plans for any debts.
- Improving business financial management.
- Building up emergency savings funds.
With proper precautions, you can minimize risks of financial disputes that might jeopardize your contracting business going forward.
Don’t Delay Action
The bottom line is that with a defaulted SBA loan in your past, your current federal contract earnings are prime targets for administrative offset. Carefully monitor any notices received and quickly seek qualified legal advice on your options. Acting promptly gives you the best chance to avoid or limit garnishment of your contractor payments.