The IRS Private Debt Collection Program Receives Significant, Ongoing Regulatory Scrutiny
In 2015, Congress mandated the creation of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Private Debt Collection (PDC) Program to expand the customer service capacity of the IRS by leveraging private sector technology and expertise to conduct outreach to taxpayers who owe a particular subset of much needed federal tax revenue – tax underpayments.
Critics who are informed about the program like to incorrectly suggest that PDC contractors work unchecked, conducting outreach to taxpayers without strong oversight. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, the PDC Program is likely one of the most highly regulated and scrutinized public-private partnerships within the federal government today.
The selected PDC contractors are required to adhere to very strict statutory regulations, the IRS Taxpayer Bill of Rights, and also comply with the detailed limitations on call timing and frequency outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
In addition, all of the scripts and letters used by PDC Program employees are reviewed and approved by the IRS and PDC contractors follow the same requirements as IRS employees to keep taxpayer data safe. However, unlike IRS employees who can seize property, garnish wages and freeze bank accounts, PDC contractors only call assigned taxpayers and work out voluntary payment arrangements to help Americans pay down their lingering tax debts with flexibility over time.
The PDC Program also receives significant ongoing oversight – both the IRS and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) continuously audit the security and privacy protocols utilized by PDC contractors to ensure compliance with statutory and contract requirements. All PDC Program calls are monitored and each company is continually graded on the implementation of taxpayer rights, customer service and compliance with statutory requirements.
The IRS also collects ongoing feedback from taxpayers about their experience with the PDC Program. A third party company, hired by the IRS, surveys participating taxpayers at the end of each interaction. And, to date, taxpayers report a 93 percent satisfaction rate with the Program.
PDC contractors are consistently mindful that the program is critically important to manage properly. They actively work to make improvements to the program through appropriate scrutiny provided not only by the IRS, Members of Congress and TIGTA, but also the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). PDC contractors also conduct their own self assessments and uphold the highest of standards on top of those required by their contracts to ensure the success and longevity of the PDC Program. For example, the contractors leverage proven proprietary technologies to analyze how to better manage the program and increase efficiencies in the future.
Ultimately, PDC Program contractors are held to a standard that meets and often exceeds those for IRS employees. The redundancies in place between the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, IRS privacy and data security rules and those outlined within the Congressional statute ensure that the PDC Program is one of the most highly regulated and scrutinized programs in the federal government today.