Budget Fix: Find Gov’t-Employed Tax Evaders

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Late taxpayers fear Uncle Sam knocking on their doors, but if he’s their boss, they may soon have to fear he’ll show up with a pink slip, too.

The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on a bill that will fire federal employees if they don’t pay their taxes on time, says the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) of the House Oversight Committee. Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are expected to introduce it in the Senate.

The bill came about in light of reports released by the Internal Revenue Service that show hundreds of thousands of executive branch employees—plenty of those on Capitol Hill—owe billions of dollars in unpaid taxes.

Chaffetz tried to push the bill through unsuccessfully last year when reports came out that federal employees owed about $1 billion, but federal union workers have fought back, claiming the bill is a harsh punishment for well-meaning employees.

The National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley defended the delinquent, saying “as with any matter dealing with taxes, each and every individual’s tax situation is unique and is likely more complicated than it appears.” She listed factors like divorce, serious illness and financial difficulties as some of the possible causes for their tax debt, and called the bill “nothing more than part of a larger ongoing assault against federal employees.”

The larger question is whether this bill could help not only cut spending (firing workers means smaller payrolls) but also earn revenue by encouraging government workers to pay their taxes on time. With a record budget deficit currently the hot topic in Congress and President Obama’s declaration that everything is on the table, this measure is sure to be debated heavily in the coming months.

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