Workforce

Lawmakers want automated tax-compliance check

tax form and keyboard

Two leading lawmakers want a progress report on efforts to automate how security clearance applicants are vetted for federal tax debt.

Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, respectively, sent a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Aug. 25 asking him about the status of creating an automated federal tax-compliance check system.

"Security clearance adjudication guidelines state that a clearance applicant's finances, including debts, are a potential vulnerability that must be weighed in the broader determination on whether to grant a clearance," the letter states.

A 2014 Government Accountability Office audit reported that 83,000 Defense Department employees and contractors who qualified for clearances had a combined $730 million in tax debt. And one-fourth of those with tax debt were determined to be eligible for top-secret clearances.

Confidentiality laws prevent the IRS from relaying federal tax debt information to security clearance investigators without each applicant's consent.

Because the process of obtaining consent from every security applicant is untenable, in 2012 the Office of the Director of National Intelligence formed a working group that partnered with other agencies to explore the viability of creating an automated system for checking federal tax compliance. The group said its goal was to develop such a system by 2017.

In the letter, the committee's leaders ask Koskinen about the progress made to date on implementing such a system, when the system might be operational and the IRS' opinion on the legality of divulging tax debt information to other agencies for security clearance investigations.

The letter requests responses by Sept. 8.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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