Should tax delinquent feds be fired? House will vote

The Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act was introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. The Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act was introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. Al Grillo/AP file photo
The House is voting on legislation that would require agencies to fire federal workers classified as “seriously delinquent” on their tax debts.

The Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act (H.R. 828), introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, also would prevent the government from hiring workers who are late on their tax payments. Workers would be given a chance to demonstrate they are starting to pay off their debt. The bill charges the Office of Personnel Management with issuing the procedures to track delinquent taxpayers. Democratic lawmakers have argued this could overburden the agency.

The House could vote on the bill as early as Tuesday, The Hill reported. Lawmakers will take it up under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority for passage.

The bill, introduced in February 2011, follows several previous attempts by Congress to prevent tax evasion by federal employees. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., introduced similar legislation in 2010 and 2011.

According to The Hill, nearly 100,000 federal workers annually are behind on their taxes; the total owed in 2009 was approximately $1 billion. Though the number of delinquent workers has stayed consistent since 2004, the amount owed has increased by nearly $400 million.

In a 2011 op-ed, Chaffetz said consistent standards should be applied to all employees. Currently, only Internal Revenue Service employees can be fired for failing to pay federal income taxes.

“Working for and doing business with the United States of America is a privilege,” he wrote. “Those unwilling to play by the rules should not be entitled to the privileges of federal employment or federal dollars.” 

Organizations representing federal workers have fiercely criticized similar legislation. Last year, the National Treasury Employees Union said Coburn’s bill was intended to score political points at the expense of federal workers. They also argued the bill applied an unfair standard for employees who may be undergoing difficult economic circumstances.  

"NTEU believes that everyone, especially federal employees, should pay their taxes, but many times delinquency is due to financial hardships like loss of a family member's job, or unexpected expenses due to things like illness or death of a family member," NTEU President Colleen Kelley said in 2011.
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