Fed workers with tax liens could lose jobs under House measure

The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says a measure passed by the panel on a voice vote this week defies logic. If the bill becomes law, federal workers who are "seriously delinquent" on paying their taxes and under liens for evading taxes could find themselves out of a job. Candidates for federal positions who are delinquent would be eliminated from consideration.

Another piece of legislation that would similarly target federal contractors who are behind on taxes passed with bipartisan backing.

The law is being considered at a time when federal workers enter a third year under a pay freeze and face the possibility of issues that could stem from sequestration. Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat on the panel, says the bill makes little sense. He argues that it unfairly tarnishes federal workers. He also notes that it's not likely that the government will be able to get any taxes from someone who's unemployed.

Republican sponsors of the measure say some $1 billion in past-due taxes is at stake and that the bill reflects the view that if someone is being paid by the federal government the least they can do is meet their tax obligations. They say they just want to motivate people to do the right thing.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, there aren't that many federal workers behind on their taxes. The agency estimates the number in 2011 was only about 3.6 percent. That's well below the rate for the general public. And the number of federal workers who are under liens is only a fraction of those who are delinquent. By one gauge, it's believed that only about 0.4 percent of all federal workers would face possible firing under the measure.

The likely fate of the bill before the full Congress isn't clear.

Source: The Fiscal Times, "Federal Tax Dodgers Are New Target of House Bill," Joe Davidson, The Washington Post, March 21, 2013

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