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Eye Opener: Could tax-skirting feds get fired?

By Ed O'Keefe


Eye Opener

Updated 1:17 p.m. ET

Happy Thursday! A Republican lawmaker plans to introduce legislation today that would allow the federal agencies to fire employees who fail to pay a significant portion of their taxes.

The bill by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) would also make any tax delinquent ineligible for appointment to a political position at federal agencies.

The Eye obtained a draft version of the bill set for release on Thursday. Employees in the process of paying back taxes or awaiting a due process hearing before the Internal Revenue Service would be exempt from the law. The measure only covers executive branch employees, because Issa's Oversight and Government Reform Committee only has jurisdiction over the Executive Branch.

As The Eye and others reported earlier this week, the IRS said federal workers owed more than $3 billion in income taxes in 2008. The IRS list accounts for tax delinquency among current and former employees of executive agencies, Congress and the military.

“There is no justifiable reason that excuses those who receive their checks from Uncle Sam to not fulfill their tax obligations," Issa said. "It is a slap-in-the-face to every federal worker who plays by the rules and diligently meets their tax obligations to have a system that looks the other way while federal employees fail to meet their tax obligations. The bill I am introducing is pretty straightforward – if you don’t pay your taxes, you won’t be able to keep your job.”

Issa's bill could be ripe for bipartisan support, considering the current economic environment and general intolerance for government waste and abuse. But it's too soon to say what if any support the bill may earn, especially since the House and Senate are bogged down in year-end spending bills and the ongoing health-care reform debate.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) also weighed in on the issue this week by asking the IRS for an accounting of what the agency is doing to collect taxes from delinquent federal employees and government contractors who receive hundreds of billions of dollars annually in Medicare and Medicaid payments.

“It’s not right for a few to shirk their obligations, and it’s especially offensive that these tax delinquencies come from federal employees and contractors,” Grassley said in a statement.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Cabinet and Staff News: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke tells senators rising inflation is unlikely. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -- traveling to Copenhagen -- sees her approval rating soar. Defense Secretary Robert Gates orders a review of the military mentor program. Did an American U.N. official have plans to replace Hamid Karzai?

More Obama Nominees Announced: On Wednesday the president tapped Marie Collins Johns to serve as deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration; Gwendolyn E. Boyd to serve as a member of the board of trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation; Jonathan M. Young to serve as chair of the National Council on Disability; and Carol Jean Reynolds, Fernando Torres-Gil, Chester Alonzo Finn, Gary Blumenthal, Sara Gelser, Ari Ne'eman and Dongwoo Joseph "Joe" Pak as members of the National Council on Disability. Track Obama's nominees with The Post's Head Count and WhoRunsGov.

In other news...

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT:
Judge asked to block wild horse roundup in Nevada: The mustang roundup planned for Dec. 28 would be one of the largest in recent years. Federal officials plan to use helicopters to force the horses into holding pens before placing them for adoption or sending them to long-term holding corrals in the Midwest.

BUREAU OF PRISONS:
Terrorists beat the system in federal prisons: One passed messages to his followers, and another seriously and permanently injured a guard during an escape attempt.

CENSUS BUREAU:
Downturn revises Census projections: Slowing immigration means that whites are projected to continue to comprise a majority of the U.S. population until at least 2050, eight years later than previously thought.

Black leaders urge census to change how it counts inmates: Leaders say the practice now shortchanges communities in money and democratic representation.

Census Bureau to advertise in Super Bowl: The agency is using the platform to nudge its huge audience to fill out forms for the 2010 count.

CORPORATION FOR NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY SERVICE:
Editorial: Walpin-gate may snag Mrs. Obama: The Washington Times editorial board suggests the case of Gerald Walpin still has legs.

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION:
FTC accuses Intel of trying to stifle competition: In its complaint, the agency accused the chip maker of a systematic campaign to block rivals from selling their microchips by cutting off access to the market.

GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS/WORK/LIFE:
Senate panel approves domestic benefits bill: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 8 to 1 on Wednesday to approve a bill that grants full domestic benefits to the partners of gay federal employees.

Salary increase now law: Obama's signature on the 2009 omnibus appropriations bill gives civilian feds a 2 percent jump in pay.

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY:
Documents show DHS improperly spied on National of Islam: The improper activity occurred for eight months in 2007 when the leader of the black Muslim group, Louis Farrakhan, was in poor health and appeared to be yielding power.

NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD:
Report on pilots who overshot airport: The captain of the Northwest Airlines plane that overshot its destination by 150 miles in October told agency investigators that he was “blown away” by how long he and his first officer had been distracted from their duties.

U.S. POSTAL SERVICE:
Time for Postal Service fleet to go green?: A New York lawmaker says it's time for the mail service to start using at least 20,000 electric vehicles to stamp out the agency's environmental waste.

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION:
SEC tightens rules on investment advisers, corporate transparency: The agency put in place two new policies aimed at avoiding a repeat of the Bernard L. Madoff fraud and addressing concerns that excessive compensation and ineffective oversight by corporate boards fueled the financial crisis.

STATE DEPARTMENT:
Pakistan reported to be harassing U.S. diplomats: The problems affected military attachés, CIA officers, development experts, junior level diplomats and others.

New details on Obama's $7.5 billion aid package to Pakistan: The administration intends to show demonstrable results soon to justify and vindicate the program, while sewing the seeds for longer-term progress all the while.

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS:
Veterans Affairs' acquisition practices come under fire: Lawmakers are considering legislation to shape up what one called "major deficiencies" in the department's contracting, in the wake of critical watchdog reports.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | December 17, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

i am amazed that legislation is needed to terminate delinquent federal employees. another question is how they have been allowed to stay on the taxpayer dole without having their wages garnished if they did not make and honor a repayment arrangement with the irs. just how far above the laws and regulations applied to the rest of us are these "public servants."

Posted by: george32 | December 17, 2009 7:15 AM | Report abuse

George32- Learn the meaning of the phrase being on the dole. Federal employers are not given money- they work for it as hard as you or anyone else works for their salary. All members of the work force should be held accountable for delinquent taxes, not just the federal work force. This law needs to be written so that all members of the work force can be summarily fired for not paying their taxes, or it shouldn't be written at all. Federal employees under current laws can and I am sure do have their wages garnished as anyone else does. Let's fix IRS issues that allow any member of the work force to get away with not paying taxes and not focus on one portion of it. And just for the record- I am 100% current on my taxes and I am a federal employee.

Posted by: McCarthy911 | December 17, 2009 7:50 AM | Report abuse

george32: The people who are really on the dole are farmers who collect farm welfare--including Sen. Grassley (R-ElmerFudd Welfareville).

How about a law saying that anyone who accepts farm welfare cannot be employed by the federal gov't, cannot receive Medicare or Social Security, cannot take advantage of the numerous tax breaks for farmers, cannot serve in Congress, and cannot make campaign contributions.

Posted by: Garak | December 17, 2009 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Scary political grandstanding. 50% of the Federal employee delinquent taxes are owed by members of the military. Leaving aside the probable SNAFU's that delay forwarding collected payroll taxes, are you going to fire soldiers and sailors (in critical positions)? Collect due taxes just as you would from any other citizen. Federal employees, especially our military should not be singled out for punishment above and beyond that which any other citizen might be due for late taxes.

Posted by: rik99 | December 17, 2009 8:08 AM | Report abuse

The report doesn't mention if the Feds and USPS employees are on a payment plan with the IRS. Or having their wages garnished

Owing delinquent back Federal income taxes can result in having your security clearance denied or revoked and/or your eligibility to occupy a sensitive position denied or revoked. A DOD employee or military member if they hold clearance or occupy a sensitive position is required to
disclose this info to their security manager. Failure to disclose this can also result in the above. The military is also subject to UCMJ. Loss of your clearance and/or eligibility to occupy a sensitive position results in termination most of the time. The DOD employee or military member must provide proof from the IRS they are making payments to mitigate this issue.

Also remember failure to file Federal income tax returns is a crime. And if you don't file you lose your refunds after 26mos.

DOD contractors who require a clearance are subject to the same standard.

Comrade Barry's cabinet and SES appointees and members of Congress should lead by example. Especially the Dems in COngress!

Posted by: omarthetentmaker | December 17, 2009 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Dear Republican genius, if you fire them, we don't get the money they owe. Garnish their wages, Rep. Moron.

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | December 17, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Let's start with all the higher ups in the Administration and Congress!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | December 17, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

"they work for it as hard as you or anyone else works for their salary."

Please.

Posted by: dcd1 | December 17, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

"Eye Opener: Could tax-skirting feds get fired?"

Heck, the Obama administration seems to seek out tax cheats.

Posted by: spamsux1 | December 17, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I'm a federal employee. For the last 3 years the IRS said I was delinquent to the tune of about 20K, after $5,000 out of my own pocket for lawyers I won and the IRS said opps, my bad. How much of the "delinquency" is still under dispute and how much of it will be "recovered" when the IRS finally admits the person never owed the taxes?

This article and the ones it link to rank right up there in journalistic quality with the "Have you stopped beating your wife?" question.

Posted by: crete | December 17, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Wellllllllllllll it would seem if you are looking for tax cheats, which I assume is anyone who does not or did not pay their taxes the WAPO might publish a listing of current members of congress and the White House Administration. Clean up your own house first. Also generally speaking if you are a federal employee that means you have had a security check and part of that check is credit history and an IRS check. But then what applies to government does not often apply to the rest of us.

Posted by: KBlit | December 17, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

it takes a special law to get rid of tax deadbeats slurping at the federal trough? i guess to expect legal obedience from protected civil leeches is just too much.

Posted by: george32 | December 17, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Could I report a tax cheat who is working in the Federal Government?

It is rather easy for the IRS to nab this guy. All they have to do is go to their boss's boss; Tim "Tax Cheat" Geithner.


He may try to get out on a technicality; statute of limitations. There must be an imaginative way for a diligent prosecutor to hand something on this guy. Did he "willfully" "forget" to pay the tax, which was separately paid to him in the form ofa cheque by the IMF when he was "working" for them as a consultant?

If he pocketed the cheque, and didn't pay it off as the tax he owed, did he report it as "ill gotten gains" the next year?

Even if he is safe from the clutches of the IRS, could his right to a federal job be revoked on account of this instance of "moral turpitude"?

Posted by: ashrink | December 17, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

"it takes a special law to get rid of tax deadbeats slurping at the federal trough? i guess to expect legal obedience from protected civil leeches is just too much."

No, they are treated like any other U.S. citizen who may be delinquent or noncompliant with paying their taxes. The IRS has to follow the same procedures with everybody. That includes retired and active federal employees; retired and active military personnel too. They don't get to grab the money first THEN prove that you owed it. It works the other way around.

http://www.irs.gov/advocate/article/0,,id=98206,00.html

Besides, sometimes the IRS is in the wrong.

Posted by: Skowronek | December 17, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure why this legislation is needed. At my agency (and I assume most of them), the agency won't hire you if you are delinquent on your taxes. Further, not being up to date on your taxes is a basis for removal from your position. (I assume it's a basis in most places, if they can demonstrate nexus).
But it's a matter for individual managers to deal with in the first instance, and permit the agency to determine the reasons for non-payment (willfulness, negligence, because they don't actually owe any money, etc.)

Posted by: Tara71 | December 17, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Could this be a problem of bad data. In the 1990s the IRS told me (as a military member) they were garnisheeing my pay for being a non-filer. Problem was I had filed every year. They also took interest--$15,000 in one wack. I was overseas had to go to the IRS rep at the US Embassy (thankfully there was one, in many Embassies there isn't) and after 18 months of arguing they repaid me in three checks over three years (with some of the interest paid back). I got $12,000 back--and called it even as they hold all the info and being overseas it was actually very difficult to argue they still owed me the $3,000.

What was the problem--military returns had changed what office handled them (Philadelphia to Atlanta) and an unannounced lost of the archives "tapes" made it seem I hadn't paid. I am sure I wasn't the only one but since it was in IRS interest to announce their mistake I still don't know how many other people they messed over.

I still worry every year that they will pull something similar--by the way I was a joint filer and they considered my husband in good standing--it's the only way we proved (yes, I had to show where they were wrong) that I had in fact paid!

Posted by: mil1 | December 17, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

While this is certainly an important issue, more important is the number of government employees who do NOTHING all day long and continue to receive a paycheck…..like Darrell Issa. Grandstanding and being a demagogue for the cameras is not what he was elected to do. A simple “demand for payment” letter would cure this blatant thievery of tax dollars. Why doesn’t he just ask that they be sent to ALL delinquent tax payers, his constituents included.

Posted by: dhampton100 | December 17, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Oh Noes! Watch out Timmaaaay G!

Posted by: Jeff08 | December 17, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

How about we just give the IRS power to make sure EVERYONE pays their taxes?

Posted by: TrustMe2 | December 17, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Notice the Republicans aren't including the legislative branch?

What's good for the goose should be good for the gander, Mr. Issa.

Or maybe it's just a stupid ploy that he wants to be exempt from.

Posted by: saunded | December 17, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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