Delinquent Taxpayers and Government Employees — Never The Twain Should Meet

When government employees are also delinquent taxpayers…  Oh, the irony.

At a time when bad and government have become synonymous, not just in word but in deeds.  At a time when complaints about government taxes have become as Main Street as apple pie.  What does it say to us, the American people, when federal employees don’t want to pay for the government they are a part of?

Especially, when it is also a time when being a government employee leaves you less likely to face an unemployment line…

Is it merely the result of simple errors, bad money management, skewed spending priorities, and/or bad precedents (think Turbo Tax Tim Geithner or Tax Law Writer/Evader Charlie Rangel)?  Or does it show a lack of commitment to the common good and the principles of our democracy?

And what are these employees saying about our government?  Is this delinquency a reflection of bad hiring practices?  Lax enforcement?  Or, what?

A breakdown by government agency is here.  And while the report doesn’t give names or political affiliation (so no shaming fingers can be pointed at any one individual) there are a few fun facts to be gleaned.

  • Military retirees won the prize for both the greatest number owing – 84,034 retirees and the most owed – $ 1,525,688,378
  • Civilian retirees came in second place with 40,000 delinquent tax payers that owed $454,938,448
  • 41 employees at the Executive Office of the President owed a total of $831,000 –  which is beyond shameful, but amazingly enough eclipsed by
  • 10 employees at the Presidio Trust who owe — drum roll please — a total of $680,682 (kind of makes you wonder why they are doing government work.)
  • For the prize of – not shocking (remember Tim Geithner heads Treasury), but still shockingly offensive – 1,204 employees at Treasury  owed $7,670,814.
  • It makes the Office of Government Ethics seem a bit like they are not trying hard enough when they only managed to produce 3 employees that owed a total of $75,000.
  • Or the U.S. Tax Court with 4 employees that owed a total of $51,111.

Could it mean these government employees not only think, but, as insiders, know they are getting bad value for their money?  And how bad a value is our government when proportionally more Capital Hill workers owe back taxes then the general population?

According to the IRS, in 2009:

Capitol Hill employees owed $9.3 million in overdue taxes at the end of last year, a sliver of the $1 billion owed by federal workers nationwide


638 employees, or about 4 percent, of the 18,000 [Capital] Hill workers owe money, a slightly higher percentage than the 3 percent delinquency rate among all returns filed nationwide.

T.W. Farnam, “Capitol Hill employees owed $9.3 million in back taxes last year, data show”, Washington Post

It is not that I blame government employees for not wanting to pay their taxes. Nobody wants to pay.  Particularly these days.   But when you accept a government job and become an employee of taxpayers you have a special burden to comply with our laws.  Including our tax laws.

So what should be done about these government employee that are delinquent taxpayers?  As a tax paying citizen, a couple of solutions seem incredibly simple and obvious.

1) Make anyone and everyone owing back taxes non-hireable for government work.  No exceptions.  Period.  And it doesn’t count if they pay off their taxes just prior to a job interview or submitting a contract bid. One would think a simple prerequisite to public service is someone being able to maintain the public trust by having at least a record as an upstanding taxpayer for 2 years as an individual taxpayer and 5 years as a business or corporation.

2) Fire any government employee who breaks trust with the public by not paying taxes. And any argument that firing them will hurt the collection effort is pure garbage.  If all employees know in advance that they will lose their job if they don’t pay their taxes and people actually start losing their jobs, I guarantee you, they will pay their taxes.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced legislation this year to fire federal workers who owe back taxes unless they have entered into a payment plan. Eight Republicans co-sponsored the bill. No Democrats have signed on, and some have said firings would reduce the government’s prospects of being paid.

“If you’re on the federal payroll and you’re not paying your taxes, you should be fired,” Chaffetz said in an interview. He said the policy should apply across the board and “there should be no special exemptions.”

T.W. Farnam, “Capitol Hill employees owed $9.3 million in back taxes last year, data show”, Washington Post

Like I said, simple and obvious.  Which, no doubt, explains why this bill probably won’t pass.




  1. How about we fire Corporations that have been proven to defraud the Federal Government (apply same rules to the well connected).

    How about doing a column or a book entitled
    “lack of commitment to the common good”


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