Legislation Would Force Ethics Probe for Tax Delinquent Feds

By on March 19, 2012 in Current Events with 39 Comments

Updated 4/15/2012

Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) has been promoting the legislation he introduced in March that would require members of Congress as well as federal employees to disclose their delinquent federal or state tax liabilities. Anyone doing so would automatically trigger an ethics investigation as to the source of the problem.

Brown released the following stats as support of his legislation:

  • According to the annual Federal Employee/Retiree Delinquent
    Initiative report released by the IRS, 98,000 federal civilian employees
    owed $1.034 billion in seriously delinquent tax debt in 2010. When
    retirees and military personnel are included, nearly 280,000 people owed
    $3.4 billion.
  • Although the number of federal employees with tax debt has remained
    fairly constant since 2004, the amount owed by federal employees has
    increased by 72%.
  • Specifically, the Members and employees of the Senate owed $2.13
    million, Members and employees of the House owed $8.54 million and
    Executive Department employees owed $620 million in back taxes in 2010.

Speaking on the legislation, Brown said, “The federal government has proven time and again that it is not a responsible steward of tax dollars. The fact that thousands of federal employees owe billions of dollars in back taxes just adds insult to injury. American workers and businesses should not be confronted with talk of tax hikes when federal employees, whose salaries and benefits are funded by taxpayers, aren’t paying what they owe.”

Brown’s legislation is known as the Congressional and Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act of 2012 (S. 2195), any individual who reports a delinquent tax liability would have an inquiry opened immediately to do the following:

  • Determine the total amount of the taxes owed
  • Determine the reason for the delinquency
  • Find out if the individual has a plan to deal with it
  • Ascertain whether or not the delinquency has reflected poorly on Congress or the individual’s employing agency

Individuals who report delinquent taxes under this legislation would have to make arrangements with the IRS within 12 months of reporting the problem to have their wages garnished by an amount “appropriate to pay the taxes owed to the United States within a reasonable time period.”

What’s reasonable? The legislation as written doesn’t say. Perhaps that will be up to the IRS and the agency’s payroll office.

The legislation has been assigned to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of which Senator Brown is a member.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian also has a background in web development and does the technical work for the FedSmith.com web site and its sibling sites.

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