Congress

Delinquent feds in GOP crosshairs on Tax Day

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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 executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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