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President Barack Obama has taken several steps over the past few years to address the $1 trillion problem of student loan debt. He’s pushed loan forgiveness programs. Efforts to help borrowers reduce payments. One thing that apparently isn’t factoring into his plans, though, is reining in abusive debt collectors that the Department of Education hires to collect student loans debt when people can’t pay. More than $94 billion of the nation’s student loan debt was in default as of September 2013, according to a March report from the Government Accountability Office. And the percentage of people defaulting on school loans has increased steadily for six years in a row. In 2011, the Department of Education paid private debt collectors $1 billion to try to collect on that debt-a number that is expected to double by 2016. The tactics used by those debt collectors range from harassing to downright abusive. In March 2012, Bloomberg reported that three of the companies working for the Department of Education had settled federal or state charges that they’d engaged in abusive debt collection. Consumer advocates have found that the debt collectors routinely violate consumer protection laws when trying to collect on student loan debt, which is especially problematic given that some of those firms are supposed to be helping borrowers “rehabilitate” their loans to reduce their debt burden.

The student loan collectors have vast power, including the ability to garnish wages and seize tax refunds-tools not normally available to companies collecting ordinary consumer debt. In March 2012, the Department of Education said it was reviewing the commissions it paid debt collectors in the wake of complaints that the contractors were abusing borrowers. But so far, there’s not much evidence that anything has changed. The GAO report found that the Education Department still does little to oversee student-loan debt collectors, and has done little more than provide “feedback” when alerted to abuses. The National Consumer Law Center has been highlighting the problems with student-loan debt collectors for a few years now, and watchdogging the Department of Education’s work in this area. Or at least it’s been trying to. Since 2012, the non-profit advocacy group has filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests for information about the government’s relationships with student-loan debt collectors. But so far, the Obama administration has stonewalled the requests. On Monday, after more than year attempting to peel back the secrecy around the debt collection contracts, NCLC filed a lawsuit demanding that the Department of Education comply with the Freedom of Information Act and release the data. “Collection agencies routinely violate consumer protection laws and prioritize profits over borrower rights,” says Persis Yu, an attorney with NCLC. “Abuses by these debt collection agencies cause significant hardship to the millions of students struggling to pay off their federal student loans. Taxpayers and student loan borrowers have a right to information about the impact of the Education Department’s policy of paying outside debt collectors on the rights of borrowers.

Being in debt to the IRS does not mean being in continual financial distress. There are proven ways to manage IRS tax debt. However, a common error for those unable or unwilling to pay their taxes is to simply do nothing. Research and experience both show people who consult with a tax relief expert early on have fewer financial, business and personal repercussions. Fortunately, most tax relief professionals like Landmark Tax Group provide confidential consultations prior to full-on representation. During the consultation, a tax debtor and tax professional can together understand the scope of the tax problem, discuss the precise options available, and determine how to best resolve the matter together.

Afterwards, the clock will start up again, but not always immediately. For the bankruptcy case, it will take an additional 6 months after settlement. Of course, when the clock is not running, the CSED is delayed, and thereby extended. When the statute of limitations expires, the IRS may not notify taxpayers. That must be tracked by taxpayers themselves or their tax relief professional. Also, it is their own responsibility to obtain documentation from the IRS that the tax debt no longer exists. Once that is confirmed, a tax relief professional can assist the taxpayer in having the IRS issue an official Certificate of Release of Federal Tax Lien or a Lien Withdrawal. Proof of a lien release or withdrawal is usually needed to present to institutions who determine credit-worthiness. It is a first step taxpayers can take to repair their financial profiles.

The “waiting it out” strategy is not recommended for all tax debtors, however. The 10-year period is a long time. Some, for example, may not be able to continue to operate their business with the standard measures enforced by the IRS to collect. Attempting to utilize an imminent CSED as an IRS tax debt strategy should only be considered while under the guidance of a licensed tax relief specialist like Landmark Tax Group. What other options are there? There are several. One is to have a tax relief professional negotiate with the IRS a potential reduction in the total tax debt. Another is to have that tax expert establish with the IRS an installment payment plan that is financially feasible and that takes advantage of the CSED. A third is to have the tax relief professional present a hardship case to the IRS. During that process, a tax professional can request that the IRS stop collection procedures ranging from liens on property to garnishment of wages.

I’m sure you can agree. Even as a debt collector, you don’t want to handle potential lawsuits. But how do you get people to pay before it gets to that point? Writing an effective yet ethical letter is the first step to initiating this process. You might be wondering what exactly I mean by “ethical.” It’s more than just writing a polite letter. As a debt collector, there are legal requirements that you need to follow. If I had to guess, most people aren’t missing their payments simply because they don’t feel like paying. A more probable reason is that they have financial difficulties making it impossible to afford. Because it’s a sensitive situation, the government offers protections for people when it comes to collection agencies’ attempts to get their money.

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