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Applying for Exemption/Misc. Determination: Sample Questions

Credit Counseling

Applications for exemption and miscellaneous determination requests are assigned to Exempt Organizations specialists for review. If additional information is necessary to make a determination, a specialist will contact the organization for the information. Here’s a list of questions that might be asked on this topic.

1. With regard to your interactions with clients:

a. List all interactions with clients from the first encounter through the completion of the 
    relationship with the client. For each interaction, indicate the name of each party involved 
    in the interaction (e.g., your telemarketer, your service provider, you, or any other party 
    involved);

b. List all information you collect from clients before or during the initial interview with 
    your organization;

c. Describe your presentation to clients during the initial interview, including topics covered 
   and options discussed;

d. List the criteria your employees use when determining which services are appropriate 
    for a client;

e. State the number of times you meet with a client before recommending an approach; and

f. State whether you provide a written budget analysis to all clients.  

2. Submit the following documents relating to your client interactions:

a. Client contracts for counseling services;

b. Client questionnaires used during the initial inquiry;

c. Prepared scripts used during the initial inquiry;

d. Representative copies of written budget analyses;

e. Material provided to clients who do not wish to sign up for a counseling session 
    or participate in a debt management plan; and

f. Any lists of qualified assistance agencies or individuals that you provide to clients.  

3. Describe, in detail, any workshops, classes, or seminars on financial planning, budgeting, credit/debt relief, or other educational programs you offer to the general public. For each program, provide the following:

a. A list of past and scheduled sessions, at which there were attendees, including any 
    fees charged;

b. A representative sample of the syllabi and all written materials;

c. If sessions were offered in partnership with other entities, the name of each entity, 
    the terms of the partnership, and any limitations on attendees.  

4. Provide a print-out of portions of your website where registration and/or a password is required.

5. If you provide debt management plans (DMP) directly to clients, provide a copy of a typical DMP customer contract.

6. If you refer your debt management plan clients to another entity rather than provide this service directly, provide a copy of the customer referral and all agreements between you and the client as well as agreements between you and the referred-to organization. Additionally, describe all contacts you have with clients once a referral has been made.

7. State whether you include client accounts in a debt management plan if the creditor will not pay fair share. If so, please provide specific examples when this occurred and indicate the percentage of those accounts in your portfolio.

8. State the number of clients, as well as the percentage of clients, that have received your services without set-up charges or monthly fees imposed because of their inability to pay.

9. List the factors you rely on to make the determination that a client is unable to pay.

10. For each year state the following:

a. The number of clients who completed the debt management plan (DMP) program;

b. The number of clients who are continuing to participate in a DMP program; and

c. The number of clients who dropped out of the DMP program.

11. If you require participants in your debt management plan program to participate in ongoing educational programs during the course of their plan, describe that activity in detail.

12. If your employees provide continuing assistance through telephone contacts, submit all scripts they use. If no written scripts exist, describe the content of the contacts.

13. Submit representative copies of any periodic assessments you perform during the duration of a debt management plan.  

14. Identify all other entities, including all for-profit and non-profit service providers, that you work with or refer clients to, and state how these organizations are selected. Submit copies of all contracts between you and the identified entities.

15. Describe all business and personal relationships between you and the landlord of each facility you use to provide your services, and submit a copy of the lease for each facility where any such relationship exists.  

16. Provide the following information about your employees:

a. List all categories of employees (i.e., counselors, administrative, staff, etc.);

b. Indicate the number of employees in each category; and

c. Provide a written description of each category.

17. Describe your employee compensation system, including how you determine base compensation for all employees, all bonus or incentive arrangements you offer, and the circumstances under which employees can qualify for bonuses or incentives. If this system has changed since you began operations, please explain.  

18. Provide all written agreements your credit counselors and other employees must enter into during their employment, including employment contracts.  

19. Describe the training or experience your counselors have and what training they receive during their employment with you.  

20. State the average amount of time your counselors spend speaking with each client during the initial inquiry, subsequent calls, and after the client has enrolled in a debt management plan.  

21. Submit copies of the following advertising materials:

a. Flyers and letters distributed (or to be distributed) through mass media (including 
    the yellow pages, newspapers, magazines, local circulars, etc.), social media, and 
    Internet advertising; and

b. Current or prospective radio, television, and phone call scripts.

22. Submit a list of all Internet sites on which you advertise or plan to advertise, or that you link to or that link to you for advertising purposes.  

23. State whether you receive referrals from banks, credit-offering entities, local service agencies, or other organizations. If so, describe each referral arrangement and submit all written documentation relating to the arrangement.  

24. If you purchase or plan to purchase leads (i.e., names of prospective clients), provide the following:

a. The identity of each lead source;

b. The terms and conditions of your arrangements for the purchase of leads with 
    each source;

c. Copies of all contracts with each source; and

d. The cost of leads you purchase from each source per month.

25. If you sell leads to others, please indicate to whom and the price you charge and provide copies of any contracts with such purchasers.

26. Explain whether you charge a separate fee to improve a person’s credit record, credit history, or credit rating. If so, describe that activity in detail.

27. Describe how you allocate the client’s first payment (i.e. amount for a set-up fee, service fee, contribution, or debt service). Submit copies of all reports you provide clients detailing the allocation of any up-front fees.  

28. Explain whether you solicit contributions from consumers during the initial inquiry or subsequent counseling sessions or at any other time during which they are receiving services from you.  

29. For each grant you received:

a. State the source, the amount, and the purpose of the grant,

b. Identify any grants that come from lenders who participate in your programs; and

c. Attach copies of all grant requests and applications.  

30. List the names and addresses of all sources that have provided you, or promised to provide, start-up funds, including the terms and conditions of each transaction.

31. State whether you now offer, or plan to offer, any additional services or products such as loans, credit repair, credit negotiation, bankruptcy counseling, or down payment assistance. If so, please list those services.  

32. Submit the following information relating to your past and present directors:

a. The term for which each director agreed to serve on your board; The total number 
    of directors currently on your board; The number of directors with voting rights who 
    are employed by you in a capacity other than director;

b. The number of directors with voting rights who receive a financial benefit, either 
    directly or indirectly through your activities (excluding reasonable directors’ fees). 
    For each director listed, provide a description of the type of benefit they may receive

c. Whether any of your directors are persons having special knowledge or expertise in 
    credit or financial education, are public officials who are acting in their capacities as 
    such, or are community leaders; and

d. Whether any directors are acting in their official capacity as a public official, such as 
    from the federal, state, or city government.

33. List each past or present board member, officer, or key employee who has served on the board of any organization with whom you do business, has an ownership interest in any for-profit entity that does business with you, or who would otherwise be treated as a disqualified person by virtue of some other relationship with either of the above. For each, explain the nature of the relationship to your organization.

34. Submit copies of all conflict of interest policies.

35. State whether you applied for or obtained certification from the United States Trustee Program to be a nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency under the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. If so, please submit a copy of the application and the ruling on the application.

36. Excluding any ownership interests in § 501(c)(3) organizations, explain whether you have a 35 percent or more interest in any corporation, partnership, or trust or estate that is in the trade or business of lending money, repairing credit, or providing debt management plan services, payment processing, or similar services. If so, please explain. Provide the name of the person, the name of the for-profit entity, and any relationship that may still exist with the for-profit entity.  

37. State whether you have ever been the subject of an investigation, complaint, or lawsuit by any of the following entities: State Attorney General; State Office of Consumer Protection; Better Business Bureau; Federal Trade Commission; Department of Housing and Urban Development; or any other local, state, or federal agency. If so, describe the issue, state where and when it was initiated, and indicate the result.

More information:

See the complete list of Applying for Exemption/Miscellaneous Determination Sample Questions by topic.

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 16-Dec-2014