5 CFR 537.106 - Conditions and procedures for providing student loan repayment benefits.
(a) General conditions.
(1) Student loan repayment benefits may be provided at the discretion of the agency and are subject to such terms, limitations, or conditions as may be mutually agreed to in writing by the agency and the employee (or job candidate) as part of a service agreement under § 537.107.
(2) The student loan to be repaid must be a qualifying student loan as set forth in paragraph (b) of this section.
(3) The agency must document in writing each approval of student loan repayment benefits. An authorized agency official must review and approve each written determination. The written determination must show the employee (or job candidate) meets the criteria specified in § 537.105.
(4) An authorized agency official must approve student loan repayment benefits in connection with a recruitment action before the job candidate actually enters on duty in the position for which he or she was recruited. The agency and the job candidate may sign the service agreement consistent with § 537.107 before the job candidate begins serving in the position, but the agency may not begin making loan payments until the job candidate begins serving in the position.
(5) Student loan repayment benefits are in addition to basic pay and any other form of compensation otherwise payable to the employee involved.
(6) Appropriate tax withholdings must be deducted or applied at the time any payment is made. Since these tax implications could create a financial hardship for the recipient of the student loan repayment benefit, agencies may lessen the impact of tax withholdings on an employee's paycheck in one of the following ways:
(i) Make smaller payments at periodic intervals throughout the year, rather than issue payments under this part in one lump sum;
(ii) Allow the employee to write a check to the agency to cover his or her tax liability, rather than have the tax liability withheld from the employee's paycheck;
(iii) Deduct the amount of taxes to be withheld from the student loan repayment benefit before the balance is issued as a loan payment to the holder of the loan.
Contact the Internal Revenue Service for further details concerning these options, as well as the tax withholding implications of payments under this part.
(b) Qualifying student loans.
(1) The agency may make loan payments only for student loan debts that are outstanding at the time the agency and the employee (or job candidate) enter into a service agreement. Before authorizing loan payments, an agency must verify with the holder of the loan that the employee (or job candidate) has an outstanding student loan that qualifies for repayment under this part. The agency must verify remaining balances to ensure that loans are not overpaid.
(2) The agency may repay more than one loan if the employee's student loan repayment benefit does not exceed the limits set forth in paragraph (c) of this section.
(3) These regulations do not impose a limit on the age of a student loan for qualification purposes. The agency may, however, specify in its agency plan that only student loans made within a certain timeframe are eligible for repayment.
(c) Benefit amount.
(1) In determining the amount of student loan repayment benefits to approve, an agency must consider the employee's (or job candidate's) value to the agency and how far in advance the agency is permitted to commit funds. If an agency decides to make additional student loan repayment benefits contingent on budget levels or other factors, it must address these contingent benefits in the written service agreement as described in § 537.107(a).
(2) The amount of student loan repayment benefits provided by an agency is subject to both of the following limits:
(i) $10,000 per employee per calendar year; and
(ii) A total of $60,000 per employee.
(3) In applying the limits in paragraph (c)(2) of this section, the agency must count the full student loan repayment benefit (i.e., before deducting any tax withholdings as described in paragraph (a)(6)(iii) of this section).
(d) Employee responsibility. Loan payments made by an agency under this part do not exempt an employee from his or her responsibility and/or liability for any loan(s) the individual has taken out. The employee also is responsible for any income tax obligations resulting from the student loan repayment benefit.