The House voted Tuesday to approve the Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act, legislation which takes aim at the nearly 100,000 federal workers who collectively owed about $1 billion in back taxes in FY 2009.
The 263-114 vote came in support of the legislation introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) last year.
“We’re not trying to cut somebody off at the knees if they’re trying to do the right thing,” Chaffetz said on the floor before the vote. “We have an obligation to the American taxpayers and to the majority who are doing the right thing.”
The legislation only applies to federal employees with “seriously delinquent tax debt” which amounts to having a notice of lien from the IRS. OPM will ensure that employees have due process and are not wrongfully terminated, and employees will also have 180 days to show they are paying off the debt to keep their jobs in good standing.
The legislation as written also states that an employee may continue to serve in a situation involving financial hardship if his/her continued service is in the best interests of the United States. This would be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said she felt the bill was largely symbolic, saying before the vote that the House’s efforts could be better spent elsewhere, “rather than by making symbolic gestures that reinforce a negative view of the federal work force.”
However, Maloney still voted for the bill.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has introduced similar legislation in the Senate.