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31 U.S. Code § 3728 - Setoff against judgment

The Secretary of the Treasury shall withhold paying that part of a judgment against the United States Government presented to the Secretary that is equal to a debt the plaintiff owes the Government.
(b) The Secretary shall—
discharge the debt if the plaintiff agrees to the setoff and discharges a part of the judgment equal to the debt; or
withhold payment of an additional amount the Secretary decides will cover legal costs of bringing a civil action for the debt if the plaintiff denies the debt or does not agree to the setoff; and
have a civil action brought if one has not already been brought.
If the Government loses a civil action to recover a debt or recovers less than the amount the Secretary withholds under this section, the Secretary shall pay the plaintiff the balance and interest of 6 percent for the time the money is withheld.

Historical and Revision Notes

Revised Section

Source (U.S. Code)

Source (Statutes at Large)


31:227(1st sentence words before semicolon).

Mar. 3, 1875, ch. 149, 18 Stat. 481; restated Mar. 3, 1933, ch. 212, § 13, 47 Stat. 1516.


31:227(1st sentence words after semicolon, 2d, 3d sentences).


31:227(last sentence).

In the section, the words “of the United States” are omitted as unnecessary.

In subsection (a), the words “final . . . recovered . . . duly allowed by legal authority”, “for payment”, and “in any manner, whether as principal or surety” are omitted as surplus.

In subsection (b)(1), the words “due from the plaintiff to the United States” are omitted as surplus.

In subsection (b)(2)(A), the words “of such judgment”, “be sufficient to”, and “charges and” are omitted as surplus. The words “of bringing a civil action” are substituted for “in prosecuting the debt” for consistency in the revised title and with other titles of the United States Code. The words “of the United States to final judgment” and “to the United States” are omitted as surplus.

Subsection (b)(2)(B) is substituted for 31:227(3d sentence) for consistency and to eliminate unnecessary words.

In subsection (c), the words “for debt and costs”, “thereon”, and “from the plaintiff” are omitted as surplus.

Editorial Notes

1996—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 104–316, § 202(p)(1), (2), substituted “Secretary of the Treasury” for “Comptroller General” before “shall withhold” and “Secretary” for “Comptroller General” after “presented to the”.

Subsecs. (b), (c). Pub. L. 104–316, § 202(p)(2), substituted “Secretary” for “Comptroller General” wherever appearing.