Bills target tax-delinquent feds, contractors

Two new bills would prevent contractors and federal employees with "seriously delinquent" tax debt from working for the government.

The legislation was introduced Monday by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. Similar measures are being considered in the Senate. The 2011 Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act, introduced by Chaffetz, would require the government to fire workers who have willfully neglected to pay their income taxes.

Chaffetz introduced a nearly identical measure last Congress but the bill died, in part because it defined delinquency as the issuance of a lien by the Internal Revenue Service. Critics said a lien could be a step toward resolution of a dispute.

The new bill uses the same definition of tax delinquency, but includes language to absolve federal workers who are working to settle their debts. For instance, the act would excuse those paying their debts through installment plans with the IRS. Employees who have not exhausted their due process claims also would not be immediately fired and could include those who have been issued a lien but have not had time to contest it. The Senate bill, introduced last month by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., additionally would forgive individuals who successfully argue their debt is attributable to a spouse.

The 2011 Contracting and Tax Accountability Act, meanwhile, also introduced by Chaffetz on Monday, would prohibit companies or grantees from winning awards in excess of $150,000, unless they certify in writing that they have no seriously delinquent tax debts.

The two Chaffetz bills have been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Neither bill has a co-sponsor yet.

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