WASHINGTON — Citing figures indicating that more than 100,000 federal employees owe more than $1 billion in federal taxes, a House committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would require the firing of government workers who are “seriously tax delinquent.”
The legislation, introduced by Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, advanced through the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It now has to pass the full House to be implemented into law.
“Most taxpayers file accurate tax returns and pay the taxes they owe on time, regardless of their income,” Chaffetz, a Republican, said during the hearing Wednesday. “Federal employees and individuals applying for federal employment should do the same.”
The Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act of 2013 requires the termination of employment for tax delinquent federal employees, while also prohibiting the hiring of new federal employees with a substantial amount of delinquent tax debt.
“The intent of the bill is simple,” Chaffetz said. “If you are a federal employee or applicant, you should be making a good faith effort to pay your taxes or to dispute them, as all taxpayers have the right to do.”
Chaffetz explained that the term “seriously tax delinquent” is defined as having an outstanding federal tax debt where a notice of lien has been publicly filed.
The bill exempts employees who can demonstrate financial hardships and an effort of working to settle tax liabilities.
Democrats on the committee opposed the bill. Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member on the committee, said the legislation “seeks to demonize federal employees rather than ensure their compliance with tax obligations.”
“By requiring agencies to fire employees for not paying their taxes on time, the measure actually undermines the ability of the government to collect the unpaid taxes,” Cummings said. “It is much, much, much more difficult to recoup the delinquent taxes from someone who is unemployed.”
The legislation requires agencies to conduct reviews of public records for tax liens for current and potential employees, something Cummings says would be costly.
“In fact enactment of this legislation will increase costs to the taxpayers by requiring agencies to spend time and resources to review public records to find tax liens filed against current or prospective employees,” he said.
But Chaffetz seemed to argue that the bill is a common-sense measure in order to get federal employees to pay their taxes.
“The very least an individual on the federal payroll can do is pay their taxes,” Chaffetz said.