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Notice

Privacy Act of 1974; Notice of Matching Program: Matching Tenant Data in Assisted Housing Programs

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Office of the Chief Information Officer, HUD.

ACTION:

Notice of a computer matching program between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

SUMMARY:

Pursuant to the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988, as amended, and the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Guidance on the statute, HUD is updating its notice of a matching program involving comparisons between income data provided by applicants or participants in HUD's assisted housing programs and independent sources of income information. The matching program will be carried out to detect inappropriate (excessive or insufficient) housing assistance under the National Housing Act, the United States Housing Act of 1937, section 101 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1965, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996, and the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998. The program provides for the verification of the matching results and the initiation of appropriate administrative or legal actions, primarily through public housing agencies (HAs) and owners and agents (all collectively referred to as POAs). Indian tribes and tribally designated housing entities (TDHEs) are not a mandatory component of the computer matching program. Participation by Indian tribes and TDHEs is discretionary; however, they may receive and use social security and supplemental security income matching information provided by HUD. During 1999 the responsibilities for the computer matching program were transferred from the Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) to the Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC).

This notice provides an overview of computer matching for HUD's assisted housing programs. Specifically, the notice describes HUD's program for computer matching of its tenant data to: (a) The Social Security Administration's (SSA) earned income and the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) unearned income data, (b) SSA's wage, social security, supplemental security income and special veterans benefits data, (c) State Wage Information Collection Agencies' (SWICAs') wage and unemployment benefit claim Start Printed Page 71113information, and (d) the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) personnel data.

DATES:

Computer matching is expected to begin 30 days after publication of this notice unless comments are received which will result in a contrary determination, or 40 days from the date a computer matching agreement is signed, whichever is later.

Comments due by: December 29, 2000.

ADDRESSES:

Interested persons are invited to submit comments regarding this notice to the Rules Docket Clerk, Office of General Counsel, Room 10276, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20410-0500. Communications should refer to the above docket number and title. Facsimile (FAX) comments are not acceptable. A copy of each communication submitted will be available for public inspection and copying between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. weekdays at the above address.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

For Privacy Act: Jeanette Smith, Departmental Privacy Act Officer, Room 4178, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20410, telephone number (202) 708-2374. A telecommunications device for hearing-and speech-impaired individuals (TTY) is available at 1-800-877-8339 (Federal Information Relay Service).

For further information from recipient agency: Project Manager, Tenant Assessment Sub-System, Real Estate Assessment Center, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1280 Maryland Avenue, SW., Suite 800, Washington, DC 20024-2635, telephone number (202) 708-4932, extension 3214; William N. Siska, Director, Chicago Technical Assistance Center, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 77 West Jackson Boulevard, Room 2205, Chicago, Illinois 60604, telephone number (312) 353-6236, extension 2084; and Gordon L. Brandhagen, Director, Seattle Technical Assistance Center, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 909 First Avenue, Suite 190, Seattle, Washington 98104, telephone number (206) 220-5312. (These telephone numbers are not toll-free.)

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This notice supersedes a similar notice published in the Federal Register on December 9, 1998 (63 FR 68130). Since that time, the matching program has been implemented on a large scale. In previous years, the computer matching was carried out for random samples of households receiving rental assistance or for selected POAs. During calendar year 1999, HUD used the matching program for a large-scale computer matching project involving over 2 million households. HUD announced plans for the large-scale implementation of the program in 64 FR 49817, (September 14, 1999). In addition, HUD established Technical Assistance Centers in Chicago and Seattle in calendar year 2000 to support the activities of the computer matching program. Technical Assistance Center employees at the two locations respond to telephone calls from tenants and POA staff regarding the income matching program.

The Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988, as amended (5 U.S.C. 552a) (the CMPP Act), the Office of Management and Budget's guidance on this statute entitled “Final Guidance Interpreting the Provisions of Public Law 100-503, the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988” (OMB Guidance), and OMB Circular No. A-130 requires publication of notices of computer matching programs. Appendix I to OMB's Revision of Circular No. A-130, “Transmittal 2, Management of Federal Information Resources,” prescribes Federal agency responsibilities for maintaining records about individuals. In accordance with the CMPP Act and Appendix I to OMB Circular No. A-130, copies of this notice are being provided to the Committee on Government Reform of the House of Representatives, the Committee on Governmental Affairs of the Senate, and OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

I. Authority

This matching program is being conducted pursuant to sections 3003 and 13403 of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (Pub. L. 103-66, approved August 10, 1993); section 542(b) of the 1998 Appropriations Act (Public Law 105-65); section 904 of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Amendments Act of 1988 (42 U.S.C.3544); section 165 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1987 (42 U.S.C. 3543); the National Housing Act (12 U.S.C. 1701-1750g); the United States Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. 1437-1437o); section 101 of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965 (12 U.S.C. 1701s); the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (25 U.S.C. 4101 et seq.); and the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998.

The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (Budget Reconciliation Act) authorizes HUD to request from the SSA and the IRS Federal tax information as prescribed in section 6103(l)(7) of title 26 of the United States Code (Internal Revenue Code). Section 542(b) of HUD's 1998 Appropriation Act (Public Law 105-65; October 27, 1997) eliminated a September 30, 1998, sunset provision to 26 U.S.C. 6103(l)(7)(D)(ix) of the Internal Revenue Code effectively making permanent the authority for SSA and IRS disclosures of Federal tax information to HUD.

The Federal tax information that HUD receives includes income data that individuals receive from employers and financial institutions (e.g., income data that would be shown on IRS Form W-2 and Form 1099) for use in preparing tax returns. The Budget Reconciliation Act prohibits HUD redisclosure of tax data to POAs. However, it allows HUD to disclose the fact that discrepancies exist between income information provided by tenants and Federal tax information, and to request that POAs reverify tenant incomes when income comparisons indicate uncertain eligibility benefits or an inappropriate level of benefits.

Section 3003 of the Budget Reconciliation Act requires that applicants and participants in assisted housing programs sign a consent form authorizing the Secretary of HUD to request that the Commissioner of Social Security and the Secretary of the Treasury release the Federal tax information. The final rule regarding participants' consent to the release of information was published by HUD in the Federal Register on March 20, 1995 (61 FR 11112).

The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Amendments Act of 1988 authorizes HUD and HAs (but not private owners/management agents for subsidized multifamily projects) to request wage and claim information from State Wage Information Collection Agencies (SWICAs) responsible for administering State unemployment laws in order to undertake computer matching. This Act authorizes HUD to require applicants and participants to sign a consent form authorizing HUD or the HA to request wage and claim information from the SWICAs.

The Housing and Community Development Act of 1987 authorizes HUD to require applicants and participants (as well as members of their households six years of age and older) in HUD-administered programs involving rental assistance to disclose to HUD their social security numbers (SSNs) as a condition of initial or continuing eligibility for participation in the programs. Start Printed Page 71114

The Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998 (QHWRA), Section 508(d), 42 U.S.C. 1437a (1998) authorizes the Secretary of HUD to require disclosure by the tenant to the public housing agency of income information received by the tenant from HUD as part of income verification procedures of HUD. The QHWRA was amended by Public Law 106-74 which extended the disclosure requirements to participants in section 8, section 202, and section 811 assistance programs. The participants are required to disclose the HUD-provided income information to owners responsible for determining the participants' eligibility or level of benefits.

II. Objectives To Be Met by the Matching Program

HUD's primary objective in implementing the computer matching program is to increase the availability of rental assistance to individuals who meet the requirements of the rental assistance programs. Other objectives include determining the appropriate level of rental assistance, and deterring and correcting abuses in assisted housing programs. In meeting these objectives HUD also is carrying out a responsibility under 42 U.S.C. 1437f(K) to ensure that income data provided to POAs by household members is complete and accurate. Using Federal tax information, HUD conducts a computer matching and income verification program annually for a random sample of households that received rental assistance. Based on the computer matching and subsequent HUD analysis of tenant-provided information, HUD develops nationwide estimates of the extent of excess rental assistance, and uses the estimates for financial statement reporting purposes. HUD implemented a large-scale computer matching project in Fiscal Year 2000 that used 1998 information from other Federal agencies. HUD sends letters to tenants and notices to POAs so that these parties may resolve the income discrepancies.

HUD's various assisted housing programs, available through POAs, require that applicants meet certain income and other criteria to be eligible for rental assistance. In addition, tenants generally are required to report the amounts and sources of their income at least annually. However, under the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998, public housing agencies may now offer tenants the option to pay a flat rent, or an income-based rent. Those tenants who select a flat rent will be required to recertify income at least every three years. In addition, the Changes to the Admissions and Occupancy Final Rule (65 FR 16692; March 29, 2000) specified that household composition must be recertified annually for tenants who select a flat rent or and income-based rentfy.

The matching program identifies tenants receiving inappropriate (excessive or insufficient) rental assistance resulting from under or over-reported household income. When excessive rental assistance amounts are identified, some tenants move out of assisted housing units; other tenants agree to repay excessive rental assistance. These actions may increase rental assistance or number of units available to serve other beneficiaries of HUD programs. When tenants continue to be eligible for rental assistance, but at a reduced level, the tenants will be required to increase their contributions toward rent.

Tribes and TDHEs set admission and eligibility requirements pursuant to the requirements contained in the native American housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996. They are not required to provide tenant data to the Department. Therefore, their participation is discretionary.

III. Program Description

In this computer matching program, tenant-provided information included in HUD's automated files will be compared to data from the SSA and the IRS. HUD will normally request that the SSA conduct matching of earned income information, and that the IRS conduct matching of unearned income information, at least annually. The Federal tax information matching normally occurs in the first quarter of the Federal Fiscal Year which begins in October, and uses Federal tax information for the prior tax year.

HUD will also request SSA matching of social security, supplemental security income, and special veterans benefits information monthly for residents due to be recertified in four months, and daily (on the receipt of new certifications) for residents. The daily process is currently used only for HUD's Office of Housing's Rental Assistance Programs and may be expanded to the Office of Public and Indian Housing's rental assistance programs. Indian Tribes and Tribally Designated Housing Entities may receive and use social security and supplemental security income matching information provided by HUD.

HUD may also request SWICA matching to supplement SSA and IRS matching and income verification. Public housing agencies, but not owners and management agents, may also request SWICA matching.

HUD will disclose to the SSA, IRS, and SWICAs only tenant personal identifiers, i.e., SSNs, surnames, and dates of birth. The SSA, IRS, and SWICAs will conduct the matching of the HUD-provided personal identifiers to personal identifiers included in their automated files. Those agencies will provide income data to HUD only for individuals with matching personal identifiers. The process of income matching between HUD and the OPM varies from the above. The OPM will disclose its data to HUD, and HUD will conduct the computer matching to OPM data.

HUD will then compare income data obtained from the sources cited above to tenant-reported income data included in HUD's system of records known as the Tenant Eligibility Verification Files (HUD/REAC-1) published at 65 FR 52777; August 30, 2000. HUD/REAC-1 receives tenant data from the Tenant Housing Assistance and Contract Verification Data (HUD/H-11), published at 62 FR 11909, March 13, 1997. The tenant income comparisons identify, based on criteria established by HUD, tenants whose incomes require further verification to determine if the tenants received appropriate levels of rental assistance.

A. Income Verification

HUD will normally request that POAs verify matching results as described below. However, under certain limited circumstances, HUD may verify tenant incomes with independent income sources. For example, such circumstances may include: (a) When HUD declares a public housing agency in breach of an annual contributions contract; or (b) when tenants fail to disclose SSA and IRS data, or the tenants commit other serious violations, and HUD's analysis of the data could support legal actions. HUD may send letters to employers to request income data, but HUD will not disclose tax data to POAs.

(1) Verification of SSA and IRS Data Referenced in Section 6103(l)(7) of the Internal Revenue Code

Since HUD cannot redisclose tax data directly to POAs, HUD will notify tenants of discrepancies between the tenant-reported income and the SSA and IRS data. HUD will supply the tenants with their income information taken directly from SSA and IRS data and request that the tenants provide this information to the POA. Concurrently, HUD will notify the POA that a discrepancy exists between information Start Printed Page 71115provided by the tenants and other sources and will request reverification of the tenants' incomes. The notifications to the POAs will not include any tax information.

Income information that tenants disclose to the POAs will be verified directly with the income source or with the tenant. HUD has determined that POAs may consider the Federal tax information that tenants disclose to the POAs as verified if the tenant does not contest the accuracy of this information when offered an opportunity to do so. If the tenant contests the Federal tax information, the POA must verify it with the entities that provided the information to the SSA or the IRS. An Income Discrepancy Resolution Guide (see Section III.B. of this Notice of Matching Program) issued by HUD describes in greater detail actions that POAs take in resolving income differences identified by the computer matching, and in reporting to HUD on actions taken.

The SSA and the IRS have advised HUD that the process described in the preceding paragraph is consistent with the intent of section 6103(l)(7) of the Internal Revenue Code, as the intent of the matching is to create a dialogue between the benefit recipient and the benefit provider.

(2) Verification of Social Security, Supplemental Security Income and Special Veterans Benefits Data

Unlike the income information supplied by the SSA and the IRS for tax purposes, SSA's social security, supplemental security income and special veterans benefits data may be disclosed to POAs. (The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999; Public Law 106-169 provided a new Title VIII of the Social Security Act, which authorized special benefits for certain World War II veterans.) Therefore, after receiving this data from the SSA and comparing it to tenant-reported income, HUD will disclose the SSA social security, supplemental security income and special veterans benefits data to POAs. These disclosures will include information on monthly social security, supplemental security income, and special veterans benefits data and, where applicable, income discrepancy information between tenant-reported data, as reported by POAs, and the income amounts provided by the SSA. POAs will use this information in periodic verifications of tenant incomes that are required to determine program eligibility and rental assistance amounts. HUD has implemented secure electronic facilities for transmitting social security, supplemental security income and special veterans benefits data to all POAs.

(3) Verification of SWICAs Data

HUD will disclose matching results for SWICAs wage and unemployment claim data directly to HAs. The comparison of SWICAs wage information and the tenant-reported data will reveal whether income verification is necessary. HAs must then obtain wage information directly from the tenants' employers, including information from prior years, when appropriate. The SWICAs unemployment claim data must be verified with the tenants. Verification of the income data with employers or the SWICAs would only be required if tenants dispute the SWICAs data.

(4) Verification of OPM Data

HUD will disclose matching results for OPM personnel data to POAs. The OPM data, when compared to the tenant-reported data, provides an indicator that income verification is necessary. The POA may then obtain current or prior wage information directly from employers when appropriate.

B. Administrative or Legal Actions

Regarding all the matching described in this notice, HUD anticipates that POAs will take appropriate actions in consultation with tenants to: (1) Resolve income disparities between tenant-reported and independent income source data, and (2) use correct income amounts in determining rental assistance.

HUD developed a Calendar Year 1998 Income Discrepancy Resolution Guide that prescribes procedures for resolving and reporting on the POA's resolution of income discrepancies concerning Federal tax information matching. The Guide also contains information concerning grievance, informal hearing and review procedures to resolve any disputes between POAs and tenants. A copy of the Guide may be accessed at http://www.hud.gov/​reac/​products/​tass/​tass_​guide_​poa.html. HUD plans to modify this Guide periodically. POAs must compute the rent in full compliance with all applicable occupancy regulations. POAs must ensure that they use the correct income and correctly compute the rent.

The POAs may not suspend, terminate, reduce, or make a final denial of any housing assistance to any tenant as the result of information produced by this matching program until: (a) the tenant has received notice from the POA of its findings and informing the tenant of the opportunity to contest such findings and (b) either the notice period provided in applicable regulations of the program, or 30 days, whichever is later, has expired. In most cases, POAs will resolve income discrepancies in consultation with tenants.

C. Public Reporting Burden on Computer Matching/Income Verification Results

The information collection requirements were approved by the Office of Management and Budget and assigned an OMB Approval Number 2507-003, with the expiration date of May 31, 2003.

IV. Records to Be Matched

SSA and IRS will conduct the matching of tenant SSNs and additional identifiers (such as surnames and dates of birth) to tenant data that HUD supplies from its system of records known as the Tenant Housing Assistance and Contract Verification Data (HUD/H-11). Within HUD, this system of records includes two automated systems known as the Multifamily Tenant Characteristics System (a system for programs under the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing) and the Tenant Rental Assistance Certification System (a system for programs under the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Housing—Federal Housing Commissioner). POAs provide HUD with the tenant data that is included in HUD/H-11.

The SSA will match the HUD/H-11 records to the SSA's Earnings Recording and Self-Employment Income System (HHS/SSA/OSR, 09-60-0059) (Earnings Record); Master Beneficiary Record (HHS/SSA/OSR, 09-60-0090) (MBR); and Supplemental Security Income Record (HHS/SSA/OSR, 09-60-0103) (SSR). The IRS will match the HUD/H-11 records to its Wage and Information Returns (IRP) Master File (Treas/IRS 22.061). The IRS also refers to this file as the Information Return Master File (IRMF).

HUD will place matching data into its system of records known as the Tenant Eligibility Verification Files (HUD/REAC-1). The HUD/REAC-1 records are specifically exempt from certain provisions of the Privacy Act, as described in notices published on February 28, 1994 (59 FR 9406) and March 30, 1994 (59 FR 14869).

HUD may also coordinate SWICAs income computer matches for its rental assistance programs using tenants' SSNs and surnames. SWICAs will match tenant records to machine-readable files of quarterly wage data and unemployment insurance benefit data. Start Printed Page 71116Results from this matching will be provided to HUD or HAs, which will then determine whether tenants have unreported or underreported income. The matching will be done in accordance with a written agreement between the SWICAs and HUD.

In addition, tenants SSNs may be matched to the OPM's General Personnel Records (OPM/GOVT-1) and the Civil Service Retirement and Insurance Records System (OPM/Central-1). Tenant data may be matched to the SSA's Master Files of Social Security Number Holders (HHS/SSA/OSR, 09-60-0058) and Death Master Files for the purpose of validating SSNs contained in tenant records. These records will also be used to validate SSNs for all applicants, tenants, and household members who are six (6) years of age and over to identify noncompliance with program eligibility requirements. HUD will compare tenant SSNs provided by POAs to reveal duplicate SSNs and potential duplicate housing assistance.

V. Period of the Match

The computer matching program will be conducted according to agreements between HUD and the SSA, IRS, OPM, and SWICAs. The computer matching agreements for the planned matches will terminate either when the purpose of the computer matching program is accomplished, or 18 months from the date the agreement is signed, whichever comes first.

The agreements may be extended for one 12-month period, with the mutual agreement of all involved parties, if the following conditions are met:

(1) Within 3 months of the expiration date, all Data Integrity Boards review the agreement, find that the program will be conducted without change, and find a continued favorable examination of benefit/cost results; and

(2) All parties certify that the program has been conducted in compliance with the agreement.

The agreement may be terminated, prior to accomplishment of the computer matching purpose or 18 months from the date the agreement is signed (whichever comes first), by the mutual agreement of all involved parties within 30 days of written notice.

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Dated: November 17, 2000.

Gloria R. Parker,

Chief Information Officer.

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[FR Doc. 00-30065 Filed 11-28-00; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4210-01-P