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Public Statements

Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CHAFFETZ. I thank Chairman Issa, Speaker Boehner, and Leader Cantor for their support in allowing us to bring this piece of legislation, a piece of legislation that has come before this body before. This is not a new topic. This is not something that just sprung up with us in the last 10 days here.

Mr. Speaker, on tax day, 2013, I want to impress upon my colleagues that Federal employees who consciously ignore the channels and processes in place to fulfill their tax obligations must be held accountable. The Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act addresses noncompliance with our tax laws by prohibiting individuals with serious delinquent tax debt from Federal civilian employment.

Most taxpayers file accurate tax returns and pay them on time. Most Federal workers do that--the overwhelming majority of them do it. In fact, statistically, more than 96 percent of our Federal employees do the right thing and they do it on time. But, unfortunately, there are a few bad apples out there. There are a few people out there that, despite all the processes, all the appeals, all the things out there, Mr. Speaker, they still choose to thumb their nose at the rest of us. Unfortunately, there are 107,000 Federal workers who don't pay their taxes. It accounts for about $1 billion in uncollected taxes.

In 2011--the most recent year for which the IRS data is available--they tell us that 107,658 civilian Federal employees owed more than $1 billion. Now, the statistics say they have a greater compliance than the rest of the public. But let's remember, when you're unemployed, you're probably going to have a hard time complying. Employment for those that are Federal workers is 100 percent. They have a job. They have a responsibility to pay their taxes.

As the chairman indicated, the intent of the bill is simple: if you're a Federal employee or applicant, you should be making a good faith effort to pay your taxes or to dispute them, as the taxpayers have a right to do.

Under H.R. 249, individuals having seriously delinquent tax debts are ineligible for Federal civilian employment in the executive and legislative branch, including congressional staff. ``Seriously tax delinquent'' is defined as an outstanding Federal tax debt for which a notice of lien has been publicly filed.

And there are exemptions. If you're being paid in accordance with an installment agreement, perhaps you're having your wages garnished, you have an offer of compromise, or wage garnishment, you're exempted; it's not going to affect you.

The IRS has already told us on the record when they testified in a hearing that the overwhelming majority of the 107,000 people fall within that category. They testified to the body in the last Congress that roughly 12 percent of the 100,000 people would fall into this category that we're here talking about today. We've had a hearing about this. We did ask the IRS about this.

I also want to note, Mr. Speaker, on page 4 of the legislation at (c)(3):

An employee may continue to serve, in a situation involving financial hardship, if the continued service of such employee is in the best interests of the United States, as determined on a case-by-case basis.

There's an opportunity to have the person who's in charge to make a determination: Do you know what? I have looked at this, and I grant this person an exemption.

But, as I did when I spoke to a group of HR professionals who work within the Federal Government, I told them about this and said, You need some tools to take care of the bad apples. I could see every one of their heads shaking, yes, please, give us this tool.

The bill requires individuals applying for Federal jobs to certify they are not seriously tax delinquent. Agencies will also conduct periodic reviews of public records for tax liens. Individuals with serious delinquent tax debt may avail themselves to existing due process rights, including going before the Merit Systems Protection Board.

In fact, in the last Congress, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Lynch, who's as passionate on this issue as you can possibly find, offered some amendments. And let me read from the record when we accepted the amendment offered by Mr. Lynch of Massachusetts:

Mr. Lynch. With that refinement here, a friendly amendment, I certainly would vote for the bill if the amendment were included.

The amendment was included. We did this in a bipartisan way. That's why it sailed through the House of Representatives last time and why it should sail through again.

In addition, individuals have 6 months to demonstrate that their tax debt is not seriously delinquent--something that Mr. Lynch asked for, something we agreed with, something that we move forward with.

For many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, this legislation should sound familiar because we did pass it.

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Mr. CHAFFETZ. I thank the chairman.

Mr. Speaker, only in Washington, DC, can we say that this is not a serious issue. We're talking about 107,000 people and a billion dollars in uncollected taxes when the very Americans that are paying their paychecks are writing out their checks.

I would also look at the companion piece of legislation, which is $5 billion, that deals with the contractors. What we're saying to the employees of the Federal Government--the men and women who are patriotic, who are doing their job; they're doing the right thing; they work hard; they love this country; they're the first ones to run and respond--we're going to take care of you; we've got your back. Because every once in a while there is a bad apple, there is somebody that works in that department, there is somebody that works in that agency who doesn't play by the rules like everybody else does. They give this country and they give their counterparts and their employees a bad name. We're going to stand up for them by giving that head of that department in the agency the opportunity to fire somebody if they don't comply.

Pay your Federal taxes, you're in good shape; don't pay your Federal taxes, don't put yourself in place, then we're going to give you an opportunity to be let go.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CHAFFETZ. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to harken back to the comments of President Obama on January 20, 2010.

Make no mistake; the President was talking about delinquent contractors, not specifically about Federal workers. But I want you, as you listen to the President, in his own words, to wonder why should--these, too, are families. Contractors are families; they're Americans; they're people. Some of them are bad apples. Most of them do a good job.

But listen to the President as he's talking about contractors, and say: Should the same be true for Federal workers?

Quote, from President Obama:

All across this country, there are people who meet their obligation each and every day. You do your jobs; you support your families; you pay taxes you owe because it's a fundamental responsibility of citizenship. And yet, somehow, it's become standard practice in Washington to give contracts to companies that don't pay their taxes.

Later on, the President said:

The status quo, then, is inefficiency, and it's wasteful by the larger and more fundamental point that it is wrong. It is simply wrong for companies to take taxpayer dollars and not be taxpayers themselves. So we need to insist on the same sense of responsibility in Washington that so many of you strive to uphold in your own lives, in your own families and your own businesses.

The same should be true for Federal workers. And when those Federal workers are giving out those Federal contracts by the hundreds of billions of dollars, let them be able to look people in the face and say, We hold ourselves to that same high standard. We're not having a separate standard for contractors and for you. Those of us that do work for the Federal Government are honest in our dealings. We pay our taxes. You know what? If we don't around here, they eventually fire us.

That seems to me to be common sense and the right approach.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CHAFFETZ. This bill doesn't threaten the Federal employees. It only threatens the Federal employees who don't pay their Federal taxes. You pay your taxes because you get your income from the taxpayers. It doesn't affect you.

What I hear continually, Mr. Speaker, is, Oh, no problem here. Don't worry about it.

It's $1 billion in uncollected taxes. For far too long, this Congress has ignored this. They keep giving contractors contracts up to the tune of $5 billion a year. I introduced that bill as well.

So to suggest, Mr. Speaker, that this bill is unfair, it's unwarranted, it's going to harm Federal employees---it's going to protect Federal employees, because the ones who are doing the right job, that are patriotic, are protected under this bill. Only those who thumb their noses and won't pay their taxes are the ones who should be scared of this bill.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CHAFFETZ. There are 107,000 people who haven't paid about $1 billion in taxes. To suggest there isn't a problem is, I think, factually without merit.

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