Three federal agencies are working together to promote integrity within the credit counseling industry and help individuals obtain reliable high quality services. In doing so, each agency pursues its individual enforcement responsibilities.
IRS ensures that credit counseling organizations holding themselves out to the public as tax-exempt charitable and educational organizations comply with the requirements for tax-exempt status. The IRS website provides resources for persons needing to verify the tax-exempt status of a credit counseling organization, and information about its initiative to ensure that credit counseling organizations comply with federal tax laws. It also highlights provisions of a new law that establishes standards an organization must satisfy to qualify for exemption under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4).
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brings law enforcement actions against credit counseling agencies for violations of federal consumer protection laws. To get tips on selecting a credit counseling organization or to file a complaint, visit the FTC website or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) (TTY 1-866-653-4261).
The U.S. Trustee Program (USTP) at the Department of Justice approves credit counseling organizations to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling and pre-discharge debtor education as required under the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. The USTP's website provides information for consumers about the role of credit counseling organizations in personal bankruptcy proceedings, and offers links to assist consumers in selecting a credit counseling agency from the list of approved providers that fits the consumer's needs.
These agencies provide educational resources about credit counseling that are helpful to both the public and credit counseling organizations. General reference materials about credit counseling are also available.