House Rejects Bill to Fire Federal Workers with Tax Debts

By Jason Bramwell

A bill that would have required the federal government to terminate workers who were delinquent on paying their taxes was rejected by the House of Representatives on April 15.
 
House members voted 250-159 in favor of the legislation, called the Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act; however, the bill failed to receive the two-thirds majority vote needed for passage, according to an April 16 article in the Washington Post.
 
Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which opposed the legislation, could not be reached for comment by AccountingWEB on April 18. However, in a statement made on April 16, Kelley says she was pleased the House voted down the bill.
 
"This was nothing more than a political stunt by House leadership to bring this measure to the floor on tax day," she adds.
 
Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who introduced the bill last year, says he will continue to pursue a remedy for tax delinquency in a bipartisan way.
 
"Tax delinquency continues to be a major problem," Chaffetz says in a written statement. "If we are going to protect the overwhelming majority of good and decent federal workers, then we have a responsibility to root out the bad apples."
 
The House approved a similar bill in July 2012 by a vote of 263-114, but the legislation was never brought up by the Senate. At that time, Chaffetz cited IRS data indicating that federal workers owed a combined $1 billion in delinquent taxes in 2009, up from roughly $600 million in 2004.
 
According to the NTEU, the bill was unnecessary due to the high compliance rate of federal workers who pay their taxes, the system that is already in place to deal with those who owe back taxes, and the likelihood that someone without a job is far less likely to be able to pay taxes owed.
 
Kelley also noted that federal employees are in the third year of a pay freeze, and many are facing unpaid furlough days resulting from sequestration.
 
"Furlough days will result in an actual pay cut," she says. "I would think and hope Congress would be working to avoid these kinds of consequences for this dedicated workforce. I note, with some irony, that Congress is exempt from the furloughs facing the federal workforce and would have been exempt from the Chaffetz bill, as well."
 
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