Delinquent feds in GOP crosshairs on Tax Day

dollar signs

The House on April 15 took up measures to prohibit federal employment and limit contracting opportunities for those with "seriously delinquent" tax bills.

Update: The House of Representatives voted on the evening of April 15 to approve H.R. 882, a measure to prohibit individuals and firms with seriously delinquent tax debt from receiving most government contracts. H.R. 249, which would bar such individuals from federal employment, failed to muster the necessary support. FCW remains of the opinion that paying one's taxes is a good idea.

Federal employees who flout tax laws could be subject to termination under a bill expected to pass the House in a vote timed to take place on deadline day for federal tax filers.

The Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), would make federal workers with "seriously delinquent" tax debt ineligible for government employment. Job candidates with such debts would be disqualified. The bill would require federal agencies to screen candidates for "seriously delinquent" tax debt and examine court records to see if an employee or job candidate is the subject of a tax lien.

"If you are thumbing your nose up at the American taxpayer by not paying your taxes, you should be fired or not awarded a federal contract," Chaffetz said. Federal workers collectively owe $1 billion in back taxes, according to figures Chaffetz cited.

The bill would apply to employees of executive agencies, the U.S. Postal Service and legislative staffers, but not to members of Congress -- a fact on which critics of the legislation have seized.

"Congress could take up legislation on tax-filing day that would address unfairness in the tax code or the underfunding that is preventing the IRS from eliminating the tax return identity theft that is plaguing our seniors," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in a statement. "But instead, they will take up a bill to fire middle-class federal workers whose pay they have just caused to be cut, who fall behind in their taxes and, of course, exempt themselves.

The bill passed the Oversight and Government Reform Committee on a partisan basis. Ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) opposed the bill. "Given that the tax delinquency rate for federal employees is less than half that of the general public, it is clear that the majority of federal employees fulfill their tax obligations," Cummings told FCW. He added that the bill "is a Tax Day stunt that continues the Republican attacks on federal workers while doing nothing to address the serious fiscal problems our nation is facing."

A Republican staffer told FCW that backers are optimistic that the bill will pass the House. "Federal employees who are getting paid by federal taxpayer dollars should be first in line to be paying their taxes," the staffer said.

Chaffetz's bill passed in the last Congress but was not taken up by the Senate.

The House is also considering a measure to target tax-delinquent federal contractors. Also sponsored by Chaffetz, the Contracting and Tax Accountability Act of 2013 requires individuals and firms seeking government contracts above the $150,000 simplified acquisition threshold to supply proof that they don't have seriously delinquent tax debt.

The bill garnered some Democratic support on the House oversight committee. It was co-sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and is similar to legislation proposed in 2007 by then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill).

The Government Accountability Office estimates that federal contractors collectively owe more than $5 billion in taxes.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is FCW's senior staff writer, and covers Congress, health IT and governmentwide IT policy. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Mon, Apr 22, 2013

The key wording is "seriously delinquent" - really if all that is needed to avoid that is a payment plan then those workers should not be fired. The relentless penalties and interest is severe enough. I had contacted them about a payment plan for a relative and IRS adds another $100 on top to administer a payment plan!

Tue, Apr 16, 2013

Only two things are need here. A payment plan for the back taxes and an increase in tax with-holding to insure the next year can provide a "refund", which insures further tax debt from accumulating and can be applied to help the payment plan. Tough to swallow with the pay freezes, but more fair to those are paying on time. It is even more embarrassing that some congressmen are 1) getting tax breaks themselves that they continue to vote on and 2) are behind in paying their own taxes.

Tue, Apr 16, 2013

How about this applying to appointees and elected persons as well. Politicians and their cronies shoud have to be up to date on their taxes before they can serve.

Tue, Apr 16, 2013 Georgia

Why would you fire the delinquent Fed? If they are unemployed, they certainly wouldn't be able to afford to pay their back taxes. Instead, let them continue working, but garnish their pay!

Tue, Apr 16, 2013 Fairfax, VA

Our government should not be permitted to enact legislation that applies to citizens yet exempts themselves... PERIOD!

Show All Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above