Honolulu Star-Bulletin - Kokua Line
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Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Thursday, June 24, 1999


CSEA can ‘intercept’
tax checks

Question: Is it legal for the Child Support Enforcement Agency to take away our state income tax refund checks? I've never missed a single child-support payment, yet this happens every year. And, I heard that our kids don't even see 1 cent of those refund checks that they take away. Are we being punished or just being taken advantage of? I, and many others like me, am not a deadbeat parent. It is very frustrating.

Answer: CSEA is authorized to "intercept" federal and state tax refund checks, said administrator Michael Meaney.

Those checks are then applied to an outstanding child-support balance or to a balance owed to the state of Hawaii for public assistance paid for the support of a child, he said.

CSEA must certify to tax authorities that there is an outstanding amount owed as of a certain date, usually Oct. 31 of each year.

So, unless someone has a "certified account balance" as of that date, his/her name would not be submitted for what's called Tax Refund Offset, Meaney said.

He also described three "common situations" where someone may have had a tax refund intercepted even though they have made regular payments.

Not infrequently, he said, someone will make an account current after the Tax Refund Offset list has been submitted. In that case, CSEA will later refund the intercepted tax refund check, he said.

Or, someone will pay directly to the other party, instead of through CSEA as directed by the court. Even though no payments were missed, the agency's records would show a delinquency and "the interception of the tax refund would occur," Meaney said.

The third example is if an individual has a debt or child-support arrears owed for a prior period and is making payments to reduce that amount. But because an outstanding balance is owed, that amount would be submitted for a tax refund interception.

In all three situations, the individual has the right to request a hearing, Meaney said.

Q: I consistently see three Internet (LYNX) terminals located next to the information desk at the downtown state library being monopolized for MUD (Multi User Dungeon). Why is game playing allowed? As I move about the library when I arrive between 3 and 5 p.m., I notice that these individuals are still at the terminals engaged in MUD anywhere from 15 minutes to 30, 40 and over 60 minutes later.

A: There is no way to consistently stop patrons from playing games or sending e-mail via the Internet unless the staff is informed of a problem or concern, said Paul H. Mark, spokesman for the Hawaii State Public Library System.

Employees do not "stand watch" over people using the terminals, but they will respond if made aware of a problem, he said.

The only restriction on use is a time limitation if someone is waiting to use the terminals, Mark said. In that case, you should tell a staff member at the information desk, who will then ask the person at the terminal to allow someone else to log on.

The Hawaii State Library (the library you refer to) has 30 Public Access Terminals. They are not just Internet terminals, Mark said, pointing out that they also provide access to the library system's Public Access Catalog, the Magazine Indexes and other databases.

"In order to provide access to these various databases, the terminals also permit access to the Internet via the LYNX software," he said.





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