Q: I collected Unemployment in the state of Massachusetts in 2006-2007.
I was found to not be eligible for the unemployment benefits. I appealed the decision and I lost so I immediately repaid the amount I was given. During the appeals process the state charged me interested on what I owed. At the time I was appealing the decision was living in another state (MO) and did everything by phone. The lawyer I used at the time said don't worry about the interest the state charged and just wait 6 years for the statute of limitations to expire. It has now been 9 years and the IRS deducted the interest amount from my return. Is this legal?
A: You were caught in the Treasury Offset Program -- TOP. TOP has become one of the primary avenues for states to collect outstanding unemployment overpayments. Generally speaking, this program is legal, as long as the state agency using it follows the various requirements of federal law. Child support arrears are swept from tax refunds through TOP as well. Challenging a TOP sweep is very difficult to do because it typically only happens if the debt is established, final, and past the opportunity to appeal.
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