Recently, headlines have been screaming about federal workers who don’t pay their taxes. Maybe there is something to all of this rhetoric.
The federal government employs about 10 million people in all of the agencies and departments. This number also includes congress and the white house—remember, they are all federal employees, which means that we the taxpayers have hired them to do their jobs.
Tax law is imposed upon the US citizenry and others, and we all are expected to pay what we owe to the federal government for “the common good.” If we don’t pay our taxes, the IRS has the mechanisms in place to force us to do so. It is the law: pay your taxes.
Since we all are part of this great scheme, most of us relish the bold headlines proclaiming someone else is failing to pay their fair share. What really astounds all of us is that some of these people are in the very organizations which are supposed to be regulating us! It appears to be a case of “do as I say, not as I do” for some of these employees. Granted, there can be extenuating circumstances, but they cannot possibly apply to all of these people.
Most current information available indicates that the delinquent tax total could be as high as $3.5 billion. The IRS has posted their List of Shame for the top-ranking tax evaders, and they are employed in the US Postal Service (Number 1), with the Department of Veterans Affairs employees in 2nd place. That is not a list most of us would aspire to.
Right now, IRS employees owing back taxes are the only federal employees who can be fired for that offense. Legislation by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) would allow the termination of any federal employee with tax liens. It did pass committee and the House, but in the way of our recent government gridlock, was not even presented in the Senate.
Now, discussion about whether this action would be appropriate is complicated. Should we fire employees who get into tax issues? If the government can, is business also allowed this? But, on the other hand, our government and its employees are stewards of our tax monies. Should they be allowed to ignore the law that the rest of us have to obey? And then, what about the cases which have extreme and mitigating issues. . . Complicated problem and there is no easy way out.
To keep everything in perspective, however, we need to realize that the percentage of non-tax paying federal employees is significantly less than the general population. The non-payers are approximately 3.5% of the total federal work force, while non-payers in the general US public are over 8%. One issue which should concern all of us, though, is that the number of federal employees who are not keeping up with their taxes has been rising year after year—about 12% up each year. This is a trend which should concern all of us.
Even though none of us enjoy paying our taxes, it is something we do as law-abiding citizens. It is also something we expect everyone else around us to do. If the federal employees get into tax problems, they should do what all of the rest of us do: see a good tax lawyer. May I suggest Jeff Fouts, a tax specialist lawyer, who has a proven, winning track record for getting tax issues settled?