Federal Workers Owe $1B in Back Taxes

AP/CBS

Around 100,000 federal employees owe the U.S. roughly $1 billion in back taxes and one Republican lawmaker thinks they should pay up or lose their jobs.

According to an ABC News report, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has introduced a bill that would seek out and terminate federal workers with "seriously delinquent tax debt" while also preventing the hire of any new employees who owe money to the IRS.

"If you get to the point where the government is putting a lien on their property and they've exhausted their appeals ... the right thing to do is fire them as a federal worker," he told ABC. "If you're going to take federal tax dollars, you should be paying your federal taxes."

Of the 2.8 million federal employees throughout the country, more than 3 percent owed unpaid taxes in 2008, according to the IRS. And that's not including retired workers or military service members. Factor them in and the numbers spike to around 276,000 current or former workers owing roughly $3 billion, according to the report.

Chaffetz says his bill mirrors efforts by the Obama administration to end federal contracts with companies that owe taxes, which the president directed federal agencies to do in January.

But some say there are some fundamental flaws in Chaffetz's proposal.

Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass, said that firing workers as soon as a tax lien is imposed would circumvent due process, as the employees would be entitled a hearing. Lynch also said the current system is effective.

"For a federal employee, we have the [IRS] garnish their pay at 15 percent -- which is higher than for the regular taxpayer. We're getting the money back," he told ABC.

And without a job, the chance of the IRS recouping any money decreases - a fact Chaffetz acknowledged. He also said that employees making a "good faith effort" to pay their taxes should be given leniency.

Currently, IRS employees are the only federal workers that can be fired for nonpayment of taxes. They also have the lowest delinquency rate of any federal agency, according to the report.

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