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How many federal workers are behind on taxes?

It's easy for many Americans, many still trying to claw their way back economically from the Great Recession, to find themselves having problems in keeping up with their taxes.

But it turns out federal employees are -- for the most part -- a bit better about staying current on their tax obligations than the rest of the nation's taxpaying population.

Nevertheless, a report from the IRS Federal Employee/Retiree Delinquency Initiative (FERDI), a program begun in the 1990s, notes more than 318,000 current and retired federal workers owed just over $3.3 billion in back taxes as of September of last year.

An IRS spokesman called the September 2013 figures "a snapshot in time" and said the 3.27 percent tax delinquency rate for federal employees compares favorably to the percentage of Americans who had fallen behind on their taxes at that time, which was at least 8.7 percent.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development had the highest percentage of employees delinquent on their taxes, at 5.29 percent.

But employees of the massive Department of Veterans Affairs -- currently under headline-grabbing scrutiny for an ongoing patient safety and treatment scandal -- had the highest tax amounts due for any federal agency, at over $145 million.

Other departments with high percentages of employees behind on their taxes were the Army (4.28 percent), Health and Human Services (4.27 percent), Education (4.23 percent), Commerce (4.11 percent), Defense (4.05 percent) and Air Force (3.79 percent).

The lowest tax delinquency rates among federal employees were at Transportation (2.75 percent) and Justice (2.31 percent). The Treasury Department, which includes the IRS, had the lowest delinquency rate, at 1.20 percent.

Nearly 4.9 percent of employees at the House of Representatives were behind on their taxes, owing a combined $5.8 million, while 3.24 percent of Senate employees were delinquent.

These numbers don't mean these people are tax evaders or cheats. Like many other Americans, they may have been informed they owed more taxes than they previously reported, were appealing their tax amounts or were unable to pay the full tax amount at the time and were paying in increments.

Politico quotes IRS Commissioner John Koskinen saying his agency is talking with unions about ensuring that tax-delinquent IRS employees don't receive bonuses, a rule that doesn't apply to other federal employees due to privacy laws.

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