Designated Agency Ethics Officials, General Counsels and Inspectors General
Stephen D. PottsDirector
Guidance on Public Financial Disclosure (SF 278) Late Filing Fee Waivers
During the September 1993 Ethics Conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) made available written guidance about: the public financial disclosure late filing fee waiver process in an effort to increase agency awareness of the criteria used in evaluating fee waiver requests. This DAEOgram ensures the executive branch-wide dissemination of this guidance.
The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 instituted a $200 late filing fee (see 5 U.S.C. App. §104) to ensure the timely filing of public financial disclosure reports by the appropriate executive branch employees. Effective January 1, 1991, in accordance with section 104(d) of the Ethics in Government Act (the Act), any employee who is required to file a public financial disclosure report and does so more than 30 days after the report is required to be filed, or, if an extension has been granted, more than 30 days after the last day of the filing extension, shall be subject to a $200 late filing fee. The fee shall be remitted to the appropriate agency, which will then forward it to the United States Treasury. (See 5 C.F.R.§ 2634.704.)
The Act gives OGE the sole authority to waive the fee if extraordinary circumstances cause the late filing. Over the past two years, OGE has granted fee waivers in cases where filers have made a good-faith effort to file their reports and have encountered unusual circumstances beyond their control. Despite this precedent, however, OGE considers each request on its own merits.
Listed below are several general categories under which fee waiver requests have been granted and denied. We provide this information only to enhance agency understanding of the fee waiver process. We discourage any effort to force situations to fit into the listed categories.
CATEGORIES OF GRANTED AND DENIED WAIVER REQUESTS
The statutory language indicates that the responsibility to file rests with the employee. OGE, however, believes that filers should be held strictly accountable only after gaining familiarity with the filing process through the periodic filing of reports. As a result, we view the lack of notification to new entrant and first annual filers as justification for granting waivers because these filers are new to the filing process, and they may be initially unaware of filing requirements.1 In addition, the lack of notification by the agency to termination filers also justifies granting a fee waiver because employees who are terminating employment may be unaware of the requirement to file a termination public financial disclosure report. Similarly, employees who transfer positions should be allowed some latitude until they have been clearly apprised of the requirement to file reports in those positions.
In contrast, we would not waive the late filing fee for "experienced" annual filers who were not notified about filing requirements.
The following are reasons for which we have GRANTED waivers:
The following are several reasons for which we have DENIED waivers:
In considering a fee waiver request, OGE examines several other factors about the individual filing:
PROCEDURES FOR PROCESSING FEE WAIVER REQUESTS
Procedures for processing requests for a waiver of the late filing fee are set forth at 5 C.F.R. § 2634.704. In order to ensure that we have all relevant information, the agency forwarding letter should include the following:
REQUIREMENTS FOR RECONSIDERATION OF A DENIAL
Although the Ethics Reform Act does not provide for appeal of an OGE decision to deny a fee waiver request, we will evaluate requests for reconsideration if new information is presented. These are the prerequisites:
1. An effective notification system which identifies financial disclosure filers is an integral part of an effective ethics program. This system increases the efficiency of report collection and ultimately reduces the frequency of late filings. (See DAEOgram dated September 3, 1992.)