Federal agencies have enhanced remedies to collect judgments. United States federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), sometimes sue individuals in federal court for monetary damages and fines for violating federal rules and regulations. Frequent examples are Federal Trade Commission suits against telemarketer firms for violators of anti-trust laws or suits by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for violation of investment regulations.

The federal government’s collection of judgments is different in many respects from a private creditor’s collection of a judgment for damages.

What Is the FDCPA ?

The Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act (Chapter 176 of Title 28 of the United States Code) (FDCPA) provides the federal government tools to collect debts owed to government agencies. The Act has subchapters dealing with pre-judgment remedies, post-judgment remedies, and the reversal of fraudulent transfers.

The Federal Government’s Principal Collection Tools

The U.S. government’s post-judgment collection tools are comparable to state law collection remedies and include judgment liens on real property, garnishment of accounts and debts, and levy on personal property.

In addition, some federal agencies, such as the IRS or the SEC, have statutes that provide enhanced collection procedures for debts owed to their agency.

Do Florida’s Asset Exemptions Apply to Federal Government Collection?

A Florida resident may use Florida asset exemptions to defend assets against a federal agency collection. The general rule is that a defendant debtor may assert property exemptions available under applicable state law in the jurisdiction where the debtor has resided for the most recent 180-day period.

Therefore, you must have resided in Florida for 180 days to assert Florida exemptions under the federal collection statute. In contrast, there is no minimum residency time period in state court collection proceedings where Florida exemptions apply immediately upon Florida residency.

The Florida residency time requirement in federal collection does not apply to a tenants by entireties property. Tenants by entireties is a property description, not a statutory “exemption,” and the federal statute does not impose a 180 day Florida residency requirement for individual married debtors to protect tenants by entireties property from federal agency collection.

How To Assert Florida Asset Exemptions Against Federal Agency Debt Collection

The federal collection laws require you to assert a Florida asset exemption in a court filing. Your filing of an exemption statement stays further government actions to dispose or take possession of your property until the court considers your exemption claim. Moreover, the government may not seize or interfere with property the government has reason to know is exempt even if you have not yet filed your exemption application.

When Can a Federal Agency Start Collecting a Judgment?

U.S. agencies may pursue your property even before the government agency’s claims are fully adjudicated and before the federal court enters a final judgment. The FDCPA provides pre-judgment remedies, including attachment, garnishments, or appointment of a receiver. The government may apply for attachment at any time after it files its initial complaint.

The Act requires that the government allege in a sworn statement a statutory justification to attack your assets before judgment. These justifications include, for example, the allegation that you are about to leave the court jurisdiction or that you are about to fraudulently transfer or fraudulently convert assets with the effect of hindering or delaying the United States’ collection.

Gideon Alper

About the Author

Gideon Alper is an attorney who specializes in asset protection planning. He graduated with honors from Emory University Law School and has over 15 years of legal experience.

Gideon has helped thousands of clients protect their assets from creditors. Before private practice, he represented the federal government while working for the IRS Office of Chief Counsel.

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