GAO: No refund for USPS overpayment to retirement account

A reported $75 billion in excess funds was within the parameters of the law, report finds.

This story has been updated from the original version.

The U.S. Postal Service is not owed a $75 billion refund for an overpayment to its retirement account, according to a new audit.

In a report released Thursday, the Government Accountability Office found that USPS did not contribute excess funds to its Civil Service Retirement System account, as postal officials and other auditors have claimed. The Postal Service has asked for a refund equal to that overpayment, which the agency says would help put it back on the path to fiscal health.

At issue is a 1974 law regulating pension funding. The USPS inspector general last year reported that the agency overpaid its CSRS account by $75 billion after the Office of Personnel Management incorrectly made the Postal Service fund a higher portion of the pensions than it owed. According to GAO, no such error has occurred.

"The key impacts of transferring assets out of the CSRS fund to USPS based on the current proposals would be to increase the federal government's current and future unfunded pension liability by an estimated $56 billion to $85 billion," GAO wrote. "This liability would then be funded by the federal government using tax revenue, borrowing or both."

GAO did not dispute a $6.9 billion overpayment to the Postal Service's Federal Employees Retirement System account, however.

The CSRS issue has caused conflict between postal officials and those who say no overpayment has occurred, including OPM and some lawmakers. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has said returning the $75 billion to USPS would amount to a taxpayer-funded bailout.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed Issa's reform legislation Thursday 22-18. The bill would allow USPS to drop a delivery day and adjust its pay and benefits structure, as well as create two oversight bodies to manage the agency's finances and labor contracts.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said Congress should set aside the CSRS issue and focus on reform proposals more likely to gain wider support. Carper has introduced legislation that would allow delivery day reduction and reduce pension funding requirements, among other measures.

"Now that Congress has pushed back the Postal Service's $5.5 annual prepayment for future retiree costs until Nov. 18, we have some much needed breathing room to develop a robust reform package that will address the Postal Service's short and long-term financial challenges," Carper said.