What is Clean Hands, and Why Am I Not Compliant?

What is the "Clean Hands" Mandate?

Per the Office of Tax and Revenue as of 1/12/2024: The District's Clean Hands mandate requires that individuals and businesses be denied city goods or services (i.e., licenses, permits, grants, contracts) if there is a debt owed to the District of Columbia of more than $100 or if they have not filed required District tax returns. 


In order to receive a Certificate of Clean Hands, a taxpayer must:

  • not owe more than $100 in any fees, fines, taxes, or penalties to OTR unless the debt is included in a valid payment agreement and is compliant with the Department of Employment Services (DOES)
  • be fully registered for all required tax types 
  • have submitted all required District tax returns


Why am I not complaint with Clean Hands?

Regretfully, we can’t tell you because DC won’t tell us. The Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) only shares this information with the taxpayer, not third parties. To understand the exact reasons for non-compliance, contact the Collection Unit at OTR by calling 202-727-4829. 


Here are some “plain language” examples of why you might not comply with clean hands:

  • Missing tax return(s) (personal and/or business tax returns)
  • Missing tax payment(s)
  • Overdue parking tickets
  • Overdue photo enforcement tickers
  • Overdue parking ticket fines and/or penalties assessed by another state and/or local municipality with which the City has a reciprocity agreement.
  • Expired driver’s license
  • Expired business license
  • Expired occupational license
  • Outstanding D.C. court-required payments/fines/penalties (examples such as child support or alimony) 
  • Past-due water bills


Is Clean Hands compliance new?

No, not really, but enforcement is relatively new. DC law has always required anyone applying for a license or permit in the District of Columbia to self-certify that they comply with the Clean Hands mandate; however, there was no way for agencies to check a taxpayer's account easily. On April 15, 2020, DC launched its internal clean hands system, administered by the Office of Tax and Revenue. It tracks all payments due to all City agencies from a taxpayer based on their taxpayer identification number and allows DC agencies to check the compliance status. At the same time, DC began requiring all DC agencies to check the Clean Hands system for compliance before issuing licenses, permits, or granting anything else that would be considered a good or service provided by the City. As the law reads, if a person or business is not in good standing, they are to be denied the good(s)/service(s) [by D.C. agencies] until they have achieved clean hands.

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