N.B. to garnishee tax refunds for unpaid ag loans

In a push to improve collection of its overdue accounts, the New Brunswick government plans to expand its use of a "set-off" program to include more farming-related receivables.

The province on Thursday said it would expand the use of a set-off that allows the Canada Revenue Agency to apply an income tax refund or tax credit against "certain Crown debts owed to the provincial government."

Any amounts the CRA is able to set off would then be forwarded to the province to be put up against a given debt until it’s fully paid.

The province’s set-off program is now also to be used to help collect overdue payments on Agricultural Development Act loans; on bounced cheques written to the provincial department of agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries; and on accounts receivable at the ag department’s veterinary services division.

The expansion of the set-off is also expected to allow for the same measures to collect on overdue payments for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development Act loans; court fines; motor vehicle fines; and social assistance overpayments.

In total, provincial Finance Minister Blaine Higgs said Thursday, the outstanding balance of the programs approved for Canada Revenue Agency set-off was about $200 million as of March 31.

"In terms of how much we think we can recover, as an example, we have managed to collect about $10 million since February 2009 by applying set-offs to defaulted student loans, as well as an additional $2 million in voluntary payments after informing debtors that we intended to use the set-off program," he said. "It is an effective program."

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