House Approves Firing of Tax-Delinquent Federal Workers

By Anne Rosivach

The House approved legislation on July 31 that would require the federal government to terminate workers with "seriously delinquent" tax debts. The Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act of 2011 passed on a motion to suspend the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority vote. The bill, sponsored by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) received 263 Republican votes and 114 votes from Democrats.
The bill also prohibits the government from hiring individuals with a tax debt on which a public lien notice has been filed. The measure now goes to the Senate for approval.
Chaffetz has cited IRS data indicating that these workers owed a combined $1 billion in delinquent taxes in 2009, up from roughly $600 million in 2004. 
"Employees who consciously ignore the channels and processes in place to fulfill their tax obligations must be held accountable," Chaffetz said. "In short, if you refuse to pay your federal taxes, you should be fired."
Chaffetz cited an IRS report that among the delinquent federal employees were 1,181 employees at the Treasury Department, 91 workers at the Federal Reserve, and nearly 6.5 percent of the employees at the US Office of Government Ethics - which enforces ethics laws, but yet had the worst compliance rate among federal agencies, the Huffington Post reported.
The vote on the measure comes after Republicans and Democrats, especially those from the Washington, DC, area, have sparred for months over proposals dealing with the federal workforce.
Under current law, only IRS employees can be fired for income tax delinquency. 
The Federal Employees Tax Accountability Bill requires the Office of Personnel Management to put in place procedures ensuring due process. The government would be required to give workers 180 days to show their debt is being paid off. 
Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), said the bill was unnecessary because the IRS can levy penalties of up to 15 percent of wages until the tax debt is satisfied.
"I'm not certain that this bill will have any significant impact whatsoever," she said. Maloney added that more than 96 percent of federal workers who paid their taxes on time did not owe money to the government.
Chaffetz disagreed, commenting, "I wish there wasn't a need for this. But this is $1 billion in uncollected taxes." He said the delinquent taxpayers are tarnishing the rest of the federal workforce.
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