For over thirty years, I have represented citizens in matters with the Internal Revenue Service. Most Americans have an irrational fear of the IRS. Whether they pay very little in taxes or great amounts, they shudder with dread whenever they open a letter from the agency. This fear, of course, is part of what propels most taxpayers to turn over their hard-earned dollars to the government. But there appears to be one group of people who don’t seem to exhibit the same level of anxiety: our own federal employees.
The IRS just released its “deadbeat” statistics for the year and our employees owe us big time. Apparently, receiving higher compensation, better benefits, and a day off for every holiday including Lithuanian Independence Day is not good enough for some folks. In fact, as of 2010, there are 98,291 federal employees who owe us $1.034 billion. (That’s billion with a B.) This really shouldn’t surprise anyone since the number of federal employees who are also tax delinquents has been fairly consistent: about 100,000 over the last seven years. The problem is that during that period the amount owed has soared from $600 million to over $1 billion.
A breakdown of where these people work shows that virtually every department and agency contains tax scofflaws. The Treasury Department actually has fewer than 1% of its total employees delinquent – despite the fact that the head guy, Timothy Geithner, is a well-known tax delinquent. The worst department, with 3.89% of its staff owing money, is Housing and Urban Development. Of course, considering the state of the housing market, they clearly haven’t been doing too much, so perhaps we should wonder why we’re paying these people anything. At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where I used to serve, almost 5% of the employees owe back taxes. The Presidential staff has 36 employees owing a total of $833,000 – that comes out to $23,000 per employee! One of the agencies with the highest percentage of flaky taxpayers is the U.S. Office of Government Ethics -- 6.5% of their employees are currently stiffing us. Which brings to mind two things: 1) there really is an Office of Government Ethics? And 2) it’s obvious that one of their guiding principles is not leading by example.
So what has the Congress been doing to rein in their employees who are tax chiselers? Not much, which is why the amount of money owed in back taxes continues to skyrocket. But finally, there is an effort to clamp down on this disgusting matter. Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has decided that the American people deserve better behavior from their employees.