20 CFR § 404.510 - When an individual is “without fault” in a deduction overpayment.
In determining whether an individual is “without fault” with respect to a deduction overpayment, the Social Security Administration will consider all pertinent circumstances, including the individual's age and intelligence, and any physical, mental, educational, or linguistic limitations (including any lack of facility with the English language) the individual has. Except as provided in § 404.511 or elsewhere in this subpart F, situations in which an individual will be considered to be “without fault” with respect to a deduction overpayment include, but are not limited to, those that are described in this section. An individual will be considered “without fault” in accepting a payment which is incorrect because he/she failed to report an event specified in sections 203 (b) and (c) of the Act, or an event specified in section 203(d) of the Act as in effect for monthly benefits for months after December 1960, or because a deduction is required under section 203 (b), (c), (d), or section 222(b) of the Act, or payments were not withheld as required by section 202(t) or section 228 of the Act, if it is shown that such failure to report or acceptance of the overpayment was due to one of the following circumstances:
(b) Reliance upon erroneous information from an official source within the Social Security Administration (or other governmental agency which the individual had reasonable cause to believe was connected with the administration of benefits under title II of the Act) with respect to the interpretation of a pertinent provision of the Social Security Act or regulations pertaining thereto. For example, this circumstance could occur where the individual is misinformed by such source as to the interpretation of a provision in the Act or regulations relating to deductions, or relating to the effect of residence of an alien outside the United States for more than 6 months.
(c) The beneficiary's death caused the earnings limit applicable to his earnings for purposes of deduction and the charging of excess earnings to be reduced below $1,680 for a taxable year ending after 1967.
(e) Reasonable belief that in determining, for deduction purposes, his earnings from employment and/or net earnings from self-employment in the taxable year in which he became entitled to benefits, earnings in such year prior to such entitlement would be excluded. However, this provision does not apply if his earnings in the taxable year, beginning with the first month of entitlement, exceeded the earnings limitation amount for such year.
(f) Unawareness that his earnings were in excess of the earnings limitation applicable to the imposition of deductions and the charging of excess earnings or that he should have reported such excess where these earnings were greater than anticipated because of:
(1) Retroactive increases in pay, including back-pay awards;
(2) Work at a higher pay rate than realized;
(3) Failure of the employer of an individual unable to keep accurate records to restrict the amount of earnings or the number of hours worked in accordance with a previous agreement with such individual;
(4) The occurrence of five Saturdays (or other work days, e.g., five Mondays) in a month and the earnings for the services on the fifth Saturday or other work day caused the deductions.
(g) The continued issuance of benefit checks to him after he sent notice to the Administration of the event which caused or should have caused the deductions provided that such continued issuance of checks led him to believe in good faith that he was entitled to checks subsequently received.
(j) Reasonable belief that earnings in excess of the earnings limitation amount for the taxable year would subject him to deductions only for months beginning with the first month in which his earnings exceeded the earnings limitation amount. However, this provision is applicable only if he reported timely to the Administration during the taxable year when his earnings reached the applicable limitation amount for such year.
(k) Lack of knowledge by a wife, husband, or child entitled to wife's, husband's, or child's insurance benefits, as the case may be, that the individual entitled to old-age insurance benefits on the same earnings record has incurred or would incur deductions because of a violation of the annual earnings or 7-day foreign work test, whichever is applicable, provided the wife, husband, or child is not living with such old-age insurance beneficiary and did not know and had no reason to know that such beneficiary's earnings activity or the income derived therefrom has caused or would cause such deductions.
(l) Reasonable belief, with respect to earnings activity for months after December 1982, that net earnings from self-employment after attainment of age 70 (age 72 for months after December 1972 and before January 1983) in the taxable year in which such age was attained would not cause deductions (see § 404.430(a)) with respect to benefits payable for months in that taxable year prior to the attainment of such age.
(m) Reasonable belief by an individual entitled to child's, wife's, husband's, widow's, widower's, mother's, or parent's insurance benefits that earnings from employment and/or net earnings from self-employment after the termination of entitlement (other than termination by reason of entitlement to an old-age insurance benefit) in the taxable year in which the termination event occurred would not cause deductions with respect to benefits payable for months in that taxable year prior to the month in which the termination event occurred.
(n) Failure to understand the deduction provisions of the Act or the occurrence of unusual or unavoidable circumstances the nature of which clearly shows that the individual was unaware of a violation of such deduction provisions.