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Posted at 5:07 PM ET, 02/17/2011

Coburn reintroduces bill to fire tax-delinquent federal workers

By T.W. Farnam

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is reintroducing a bill that would require federal agencies to fire employees who don't pay their taxes.

The legislation, if approved, would mean that anyone with a "seriously delinquent tax debt" could not work for the government, according to Coburn's office. He first introduced the bill in September, but it is now co-sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

Executive branch employees owed approximately $1 billion in back taxes, according to a 2010 study by the Internal Revenue Service. Capitol Hill staffers owed $9.3 million, a 37 percent increase over recent years.

"Taxpayers are fed up with those in Washington living under a different set of rules than the rest of America," Coburn said in a statement. "At a time when Congress may allow taxes to increase on some or even all Americans, Congress should not expect other Americans to pay more taxes when they are not even paying the taxes they owe under the rates they set themselves."

"All federal employees, not just IRS employees, should be held accountable for failure to pay their federal taxes. This legislation is just common sense," McCaskill said.

The bill comes at a time of high public anger with government spending primarily directed at public employees and their unions. President Obama has enacted a two-year pay freeze for federal workers and, in state capitals around the country, lawmakers are proposing cuts to government payrolls and pensions as a way to shrink deficits.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

RELATED: Federal workers who owed taxes in 2009

By T.W. Farnam  | February 17, 2011; 5:07 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

garnish their wages at 50 percent of their gross pay. While withholding 100 percent of their current tax burden(on the full amount) plus the interest on the principle untill paid in full, then fire them.

Posted by: kev4 | February 17, 2011 11:14 PM | Report abuse

garnish their wages at 50 percent of their gross pay. While withholding 100 percent of their current tax burden(on the full amount) plus the interest on the principle untill paid in full, then fire them.

Posted by: kev4 | February 17, 2011 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Getting rid of those who owe is about as stupid an idea as I've ever heard. Haven't these imbeciles ever heard the expression "Cut off your nose to spite your face?" Just garnish their paychecks so they have to pay what they owe. When money is owed, absolutely the LAST thing the creditor should want is for the debtor to be out of work. Even the mob is smart enough to know that if you break the deadbeat's legs he can't work and can't pay the bookie.

This is just another example of wasting time and money in another stupid grandstand play. Thanks a pantload, Coburn - I didn't really need to be reminded that you are an idiot.

Posted by: mycroftt | February 18, 2011 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Comment posted by mycroftt is of course the correct action to take... Thank you for saying it for me...

Posted by: richardsmalley | February 18, 2011 9:06 AM | Report abuse

The government would not be lenient with me if I had not paid my taxes. Garnish their wages until they are paid up and then decide what to do. Having them unemployed is not the answer to the issue.

Posted by: deltabravo1 | February 18, 2011 9:46 AM | Report abuse

As a federal employee, I'm sick and tired of being the subject of a witch hunt.

What is worse is this is an example of witches being hunted by other witches. I'm not saying that this idiot owes taxes because I have no idea whether they do or don't.

But, why should federal employees be discriminated against like this? Aren't there enough laws that apply to everyone for when they don't pay their taxes? Do private companies fire you if you don't pay back your 401K loans or don't pay back an overpayment???

Let's remember that Federal Employees are Humans First, Americans second, and then Federal employees. If you are going to fire employees for not paying their taxes... You better do it to all employees... Public and Private...

And... I agree with mycroftt as well.

Coburn might be representing Oklahoma... But you would think they were representing Massachusetts from 1692.

Posted by: hetterlyiv | February 18, 2011 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I also agree with mycroft, generally speaking. But I am most disturbed by the number of military retired who are delinquent. You don't have to fire them, start garnishing their checks, if its legal. If its not legal then introduce legislation that makes it legal. They are not a priveleged class of taxpayor. Active military have some releif and rightly so in many cases. Also, what can we expect from government employees when the Congress confirms tax cheats like the Secretary of the Treasury. I am surprised that the cheaters at Treasury isn't more than it is. I wonder how all those folks get away with it, I just paid a penalty for failing to pay taxes on income that was reported to the IRS and I failed to list it on my return. A mistake on my part,I sure got my notice in a timely manner.

Posted by: lwangrud | February 18, 2011 10:22 AM | Report abuse

If passed, are the lawmakers included?

Posted by: Skowronek | February 18, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

I agree we need to do something with all people who do not pay their taxes. I thought this was why we paid the employees over at the IRS. But they must not being doiing their job.

So back to this issue. Give them X time to get caught up. (all people behind not matter how much not just "seriously delinquent tax debt") If they do not get caught up in the set amount of time garnish wages at a very high percent like 50% of wages. They will either quit or pay up. If they quit go after them for tax evasion like you did on Snipes and other that owe money.

Posted by: Jeff97 | February 18, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

"Getting rid of those who owe is about as stupid an idea as I've ever heard. Haven't these imbeciles ever heard the expression "Cut off your nose to spite your face?"

Would Pyrrhic victory work here as well?

Posted by: Skowronek | February 18, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

"I agree we need to do something with all people who do not pay their taxes. I thought this was why we paid the employees over at the IRS. But they must not being doiing their job."

I suspect they are doing their job, but there are more citizens (taxpayers) than ever and fewer IRS employees.

But there’s a huge difference between an IRS revenue agent — who calls on taxpayers and conducts face-to-face audits — and the workers who make up the bulk of IRS employees. Those who work at the IRS include clerks, accountants, computer programmers, telephone help line workers and other support staff. In fact, IRS revenue agents make up only 15 percent of the IRS workforce, according to the official IRS personnel summary. It shows that of the 93,337 employees the IRS had on board as of the end of the last fiscal year (September 31, 2009) only 14,264 were actually working as revenue agents. Even adding in "revenue officers" (who collect money owed) and "special agents" (who handle criminal cases and are law-enforcement officers) the total working in the enforcement area comes to less than 25 percent of all IRS workers.

Posted by: Skowronek | February 18, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

"Let's remember that Federal Employees are Humans First, Americans second, and then Federal employees. If you are going to fire employees for not paying their taxes... You better do it to all employees... Public and Private...

And... I agree with mycroftt as well.

Coburn might be representing Oklahoma... But you would think they were representing Massachusetts from 1692."

Posted by: hetterlyiv | February 18, 2011 10:04 AM


Very well said, and I totally agree with mycroftt as well.

Posted by: dstreet208 | February 18, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I too am a federal employee and I say fire them. Skipping or cheating on taxes is ridiculous and there is no excuse. "Seriously delinquent tax debt", please, delinquent is delinquent. FIRE THEM IMMEDIATELY!

Posted by: Jimbo21 | February 18, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

First you freeze their TSP's. Then you garnish 50% of their wages. Then you take their accumulated leave. Finally, you modify their their annual W-4's to make sure that enough taxes are taken from their paychecks to avoid the same tax delinquency problems. In the meantime, make sure that they are not able to be vetted for any promotions or step increases. Don't fire them unless they refuse to pay. a good employee will stay and pay off. A bad apple will quit. We don't need bad apples in or government.

Posted by: Keyless58 | February 18, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Wow...I am 54 years old, a federal employee and have NEVER owed taxes...alway received a refund...and I thought that I should adjust my exemptions so that I could keep my money instead of waiting for a refund. And of course, I screwed it up and ended up owing the government for the first time in my life. So I make monthly payments to get it paid off and would never be able to catch up if I lost my job over one mistake. If people don't pay, garnish their wages...not just federal employees...everyone!

Posted by: Patcat3 | February 18, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Civil Service is more than just a job. It a public trust. It is more than reasonable to expect those of us that had the privilege to be a in Civil Service to pay our taxes. Not too complicated!

Posted by: CC-1 | February 18, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Actually, all federal employees are subject to ethics and codes of conduct, far more stringent that private sector employees. They signed on to them with the job. Therefore, there could be grounds for removal or at least discipline first, then removal later if they don't resolve their issues.

Posted by: jdaily8227 | February 18, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Actually, all federal employees are subject to ethics and codes of conduct, far more stringent that private sector employees. They signed on to them with the job. Therefore, there could be grounds for removal or at least discipline first, then removal later if they don't resolve their issues.

Posted by: jdaily8227 | February 18, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

This is blatant political grandstanding to attack federal employees. There is no problem with federal employees not paying taxes any more than there is in the community in general. To suggest we should go back to the days wehn the debtor was tossed in prison would be ridiculous and this is just about the same. How can they pay off their taxes is you keep them from working. I see no evidence these people aren't working off their debt mentioned. The government has provisions for this and as long as they are making a good faith effort to pay back the money owed they should be left alone. Tom Coburn is just an intolerant A@#HOLE who dose not deserve to be in the Senate. There are a lot more impoprtant things he should be dealing with at this time that this ridiculous grandstanding.

Posted by: LeaveMeAlone2 | February 18, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Before we take action, I think we need to review the facts. In majority of these cases, the overdue tax is part of a review or audit by the IRS and a final decision has not been made, or has been made and the employee is rectifying the debt. Just using a gross number of deliquent employees and dollars is unfair and incorrect.

If an employee is truly deliquent and won't pay the back taxes, there are provisions to terminate their sevice with the federal government as every employee agrees with their employment to ensure there are no problems with their credit or taxes. But for the rest, as noted, there are means for the employee to correct the situation and the government to garnish wages if they want.

This issue has been raised routinely for political rhetoric. That's all it is and should be treated as such and not something to attack government employees.

Posted by: wsrphoto | February 18, 2011 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Seems fair.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 18, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

How about those agencies that owe employees amended w-2 forms after leave records were changed,etc.? This could be one more ruse to get rid of an injured Federal employee. I had to file papers with IRS, etc. to stop actions when the 'fault' was my employing agency. The real issue that if monies are owed, then the employee is responsible, as anyone else would be to contact IRS and file any needed papers and/or appeals to show they are not 'delinquent' and pursuing any legal recourse. When I did, the response from IRS was courteous and professional and HHS pay roll office was the lax one, etc. Again, the still pending civil rights complaints against HHS go unresolved. SSA, as one agency under them, did not have the ultimate responsibility in the matter. HHS just didn;t want to acknowledge so many had been injured after they were involved in 'threatening' hospitals to deny initial treatment to my co-workers in 1/89. Corruption begets corruption! I, as the last one registered at one hospital had a mix-up and Port authority put down as my employer and i got all treatment and tests , etc until it was learned I was SSA and sent 'home to die' in the OPM 'death panels' that are very real since 1979. Linda Joy Adams

Posted by: LindaJoyAdams | February 18, 2011 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Federal workers are told to get their taxes in order if they are delinquent or face suspension. All Fed workers know this. As said above, no one would ask that a private citizen lose their job. But what is really, REALLY, amazing to me is that these same republicans are doing NOTHING ABOUT CORPORATE TAX CHEATS AND THE WEALTHY WHO PARK THEIR MONEY IN OFF-SHORE ACCOUNTS.
Go after the big money before you step on the middle class.

Posted by: milana41 | February 18, 2011 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Subject: Federal workers owing taxes. First, I believe Senators Coburn & McCaskill should remove the thought of firing anyone until it is found out why the deiinquency. Second, congressional investigation should be considered since we're talking about a federal matter. I have a personal feeling there will be many hardship situations revealed. Afterall, we're looking at Capitol Hill Staffers & IRS Staffers & others involved. So, lets look at the total picture before anyone is fired. Finally, how many of the delinquent involved have family involved in military operations that may have brought on this problem. Thank you & Semper Fi.


Posted by: tj23vj35 | February 18, 2011 10:30 PM | Report abuse

First, I believe Senators Coburn & McCaskill should remove the thought of firing anyone until they find out why the delinquency. Secondly, congressional investigation should be considered since we're talking about a federal matter. I have a personal feeling there will be many hardship situations revealed, afterall, we're looking at Capitol Hill Staffers & IRS Staffors & others involved. So, lets look at the total picture before anyone is fired. Finally,how many of the delinquent involved have family in military operations abroad & on the home front that may have brought on this problem. Thank you & Semper Fi.

Posted by: tj23vj35 | February 18, 2011 11:09 PM | Report abuse

Federal Workers? Taxes not paid? Coburn is talking pretty small potatoes. How about if he introduces legislation that would go after the REAL BIG bucks - like from various corporations who not only DO NOT pay taxes, they receive BIG refunds (to wit: most of the oil companies, with funds banked overseas). I keep wondering how long it will take the GOP Clowns to break down completely our democracy. We have a "Cairo" that has emerged in Wisconsin; how many states with GOP Governors/Legislatures will follow that lead?

Posted by: rbsher | February 19, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Federal Workers? Taxes not paid? Coburn is talking pretty small potatoes. How about if he introduces legislation that would go after the REAL BIG bucks - like from various corporations who not only DO NOT pay taxes, they receive BIG refunds (to wit: most of the oil companies, with funds banked overseas). I keep wondering how long it will take the GOP Clowns to break down completely our democracy. We have a "Cairo" that has emerged in Wisconsin; how many states with GOP Governors/Legislatures will follow that lead?

Posted by: rbsher | February 19, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I hope this bill applies to Surpreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas!

Posted by: slick1280 | February 19, 2011 10:36 PM | Report abuse

As long as this bill includes members of Congress there is nothing wrong with it. You may not be able to fire them, but they can be made to answer to the ethics committee and removed from any committee positions that they hold.

Posted by: takebackamerica1 | February 20, 2011 12:08 AM | Report abuse

What difference does it make who you work for. Enough of this public vs. private. If you owe taxes, then the IRS should garnish your wages. We're all in this mess together.

Posted by: hickory91 | February 21, 2011 11:17 PM | Report abuse

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