DATE: May 27, 2010
TO: Tribal and State IV-D Directors
FROM: Vicki Turetsky, Commissioner
Office of Child Support Enforcement
SUBJECT: Questions regarding tribal access to the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) and federal tax refund offset
BACKGROUND:With the publication of the final rule on Computerized Tribal IV-D Systems and Office Automation on February 26, 2010, questions have arisen concerning tribal access to the FPLS for tax refund offset. The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) previously issued PIQT-07-02, FFP for State Automated Systems Costs related to Service Agreements with Tribal IV-D Programs; Submitting Tribal IV-D cases for Federal Tax Refund Offset; and Submitting Requests to the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) in Tribal IV-D, which ensured federal requirements for access to federal tax refund offset and the FPLS were met. In addition, TDCL-10-02, Tribal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Safeguarding Guidance was issued on March 8, 2010.
Question 1: How does the tribe obtain access to the FPLS and federal tax refund offset? If the tribe has an intergovernmental agreement with a state to provide FPLS and locate services and tax refund offset, would that impact my tribe’s ability to use the Model Tribal System (MTS)?
Answer 1: There is no statutory authority at this time for direct tribal access to the FPLS and federal tax refund offset. However, the tribe could receive FPLS data from a state through an intergovernmental agreement. If the intergovernmental agreement between the tribe and the state is for functionality not available in the MTS, such as locate, FPLS and federal tax refund offset, the intergovernmental agreement with a state would not prohibit the tribe from opting for the MTS to meet its automation needs. Once a tribe has an agreement in place with a state, the MTS could be enhanced to build an electronic interface for passing such service requests between the tribe’s MTS and the state system, eliminating much manual intervention and time.
Question 2: If a state provides all automated services, including federal tax refund offset services, how does that impact OCSE’s rule on sole systems effort?
Answer 2: If the intergovernmental agreement between the tribe and the state provides a full range of child support case management services, then the tribe could not opt for MTS, because it would be duplicating functions in the state’s system. The regulations at 45 CFR §310.20(a)(2)(i) limit Federal Financial Participation (FFP) to computerized tribal IV-D systems that represent the sole systems effort being undertaken by the tribe.
Question 3:If the tribe is receiving federal tax refund offset data from a state under an intergovernmental agreement, does the state still have responsibility over safeguarding of this data, even if the IRS has reviewed the tribe’s data safeguarding process?
Answer 3: Yes. When a state directly receives federal tax information from the IRS, it has the legal responsibility to safeguard that information. All IV-D case information is confidential, whether a state or tribal IV-D program maintains it. Both entities are required to treat the information as confidential and are bound by safeguarding requirements. If tribes and states enter into agreements for reciprocal access to each other’s databases for location or other child support purposes, such agreements must not conflict with federal safeguarding and other regulations and must comply with the IRS rules governing disclosure of federal tax information. PIQ-07-02/PIQT-07-02 addresses the technical requirements for access to the FPLS, including tax refund offset data.
OCSE recently issued TDCL-10-02, March 8, 2010, Tribal IRS Safeguarding Guidance, which explains how the IRS will be working with tribes as they begin to receive tax information from the state counterparts.
cc: ACF/OCSE Regional Program Managers