Federal employees who don’t pay their taxes should be fired

If you’re collecting a federal paycheck, you should pay federal taxes. That’s the premise of a bill I introduced last week to require federal employees to pay their taxes or be fired.

The IRS reports that 100,000 federal civilian employees are seriously delinquent on their federal taxes. These aren’t just people who fell behind. These are people who have actively defied IRS letters and phone calls seeking payment. In 2009, the US government failed to collect $1 billion a year from federal employees alone.

While the number of delinquent federal employees has remained fairly constant since 2004, the amount owed has increased nearly 70%. The bill further prohibits the hiring of future employees who have failed to pay taxes. We’ve got to tackle this problem.

Only IRS employees can currently be terminated for not paying federal income taxes. Consequently, IRS has the highest tax compliance rate of any federal agency. Numbers from the IRS, Office of Personnel Management and Department of Defense show a very different story among other federal agencies. US Postal Service employees owed more than $257 million in 2008. Department of Veterans Affairs employees owe a combined $131 million. Between the Army and the Navy, more than 17,000 employees are delinquent. The tax problems even stretch as far as Capitol Hill, where there were 447 House employees and 231 Senate staffers who fell into the “seriously delinquent” category in 2008.

Working for and doing business with the United States of America is a privilege. Those unwilling to play by the rules should not be entitled to the privileges of federal employment or federal dollars.

Because I believe these policies should extend to anyone doing business with the federal government, I also introduced a second bill to prohibit any person who has a seriously delinquent tax debt from obtaining a federal government contract or grant. Competition for such funds is steep. No one who ducks a federal tax obligation should be eligible to benefit from federal funds.

It’s true that many taxpayers fall behind for one reason or another. If a federal employee is truly trying to dig out of a hole, he will not be fired. Nor would this legislation impact federal employees who enter installment agreements to pay off their tax debts. Moreover, designating a taxpayer as “seriously delinquent” is a multi-step procedure that affords the federal employee due process.

However, Congress must send the message that those who deliberately and willfully dodge federal tax obligations should not expect to collect a taxpayer-funded paycheck. At a time when this country is nearly $14 trillion in debt and many Americans are struggling to find work, the federal government need not tolerate tax evasion within the federal workforce.

Congressman Chaffetz serves on the Oversight committee overseeing Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia.