“Good Intentions” Not a Defense

Applying progressive discipline, the IRS ended up firing an employee who dragged his feet every year resulting in late payment of his federal taxes.

The Internal Revenue Service usually does not look favorably on its own employees failing to timely pay their federal income taxes. In Boddie v. Department of the Treasury (CAFC No. 2014-3125, 11/12/14 (nonprecedential)) the agency ended up firing an employee for repeated offenses and the appeals court now backs the agency’s action.

According to the court’s write-up, Mr. Boddie, a 12-year employee serving as Contact Representative for the IRS, missed the filing deadline for his taxes in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Missing the deadline in 2007 and 2008 led to a five-day suspension; missing it in 2009 led to a thirty-day suspension. When Mr. Boddie missed the tax deadline in 2010 that apparently was the last straw. The agency proposed removal. Building on the prior suspensions, the agency cited him with failing to pay his taxes when due. The notice pointed out that he had been warned repeatedly, previously disciplined, yet continued to manage his tax withholding in such a way that he owed the government and failed to pay when due. The agency cited this as a clear violation of Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch that, among other things, require employees to meet their obligations as citizens in good faith….”especially those such as Federal, State or local taxes that are imposed by law….” (Opinion pp. 2-3)

The Merit Systems Protection Board sustained the removal. Mr. Boddie tried his hand at the appeals court, but has now lost there as well. The court noted that his failure to timely pay his 2010 taxes supported removal “particularly in light of the nature of his position and his two prior suspensions for the same misconduct. (pp. 4-5)

The court brushed aside Boddie’s argument he had good intentions to pay his tax debt as evidenced by his admission he owed the taxes, his agreement to an installment payment scheme and his eventual payment in full. The court indicated the good intentions were “undermined by his repeated failures to pay his taxes in full by the due date, and that he did not change his behavior even after being suspended twice for the same misconduct.” (p. 5)

In reaching its decision, the court also pointed to the link between Mr. Boddie’s misconduct and his position as a representative of the IRS.

Bottom line: the removal stands.

Bodie v. Treasury 2014-3125

About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.