New Jersey Tries to Collect 25 Year Old $106 Debt from Ex-Resident

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The long arm of New Jersey’s tax collectors can extend across time and state boundaries.

A former Howell Township resident this week received a notice from the New Jersey Department of Labor seeking to collect a $106 unemployment benefits overpayment. In 1991, the man, who wishes to remain anonymous was a 19 year old working in New Jersey, collecting unemployment after being laid off from his job.

Today, he lives in sunny Florida and thought he had left all of New Jersey’s dysfunctions behind.  He left New Jersey in 1994 and doesn’t even remember which job he was laid off from, as so much time has passed.

He didn’t know at the time, but the state paid him a few dollars too much in unemployment that year.

Twenty-five years later, now 44, he received a notice from the state demanding that he returned the $106 paid to him during his teen years to the state. If he did not pay, the state threatened to turn the matter over to the Internal Revenue Service under the Treasury Offset Program, the debt collection arm of the federal government.

Although debtors of private entities in New Jersey are protected by a six year statute of limitations, there is no statute of limitations in the state when it comes to overpayment of unemployment benefits.

This form of debt collection is very common in New Jersey.  A simple Google search turned up dozens of others who received the same letter.

It turns out New Jersey can be relentless in collecting these debts, chasing debtors across state lines in a vigorous attempt to return the money back to the state.

What most people don’t realize is that you don’t necessarily have to pay that debt and the state sometimes settles for less.  Residents also can file an appeal with the Department of Labor if they can prove the overpayment was entitled to them.

In this case, the debt was settled for just $31.08, the cost a few nails to help pay for the $300 million state house renovation project, perhaps.