Ensuring members of Congress pay taxes
Friday, September 17, 2010
How can you tell Capitol Hill is in full election year mode? Members of Congress introduce legislation that has no chance of passing but which will produce good sound bites for campaign ads and rally speeches.
Heck, even lawmakers who are shoe-ins for their seats still like to have something that will energize the voters.
And what better get-out-the-vote issue than taxes? One thing: Folks on federal payrolls who don't pay their taxes.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who apparently is on his way to a second term, last week introduced two bills targeting federal employees and Members of Congress and staff who are cheating on their taxes.
S. 3790 will make
federal employees who have seriously delinquent tax debts "ineligible for federal
employment." In plain English, they will not be hired or, if already on Uncle Sam's payroll, they could be fired.
S. 3791 will require Members of Congress to disclose delinquent tax liability, face an ethics inquiry and have their wages garnished by the IRS to help pay off their tax bills.
But Coburn's announcement that accompanied the bills' introduction made clear their real value:
"Taxpayers are fed up with those in Washington living under a different set of rules than the rest of America. At a time when Congress may allow taxes to increase on some or even all Americans, Congress should not expect other Americans to pay more taxes when they are not even paying the taxes they owe under the rates they set themselves."
I can almost hear God Bless America playing in the background of a future television spot.
Dealing with tax delinquents: Coburn's legislation was no doubt prompted by the recent Washington Post revelation that Capitol Hill workers owe more than $9 million in back taxes.
And his bills are just the latest attempt to deal with the persistent tax-payment problem among federal workers; the same nonpayment trends were noted in data released in 2007 and 2009.
In the wake of those prior reports, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) spearheaded a similar effort earlier this year to fire federal workers who owe back taxes.
I totally agree with Coburn and Chaffetz. Everyone needs to pay their taxes.
But as I note in my Bankrate Taxes Blog item Making lawmakers pay taxes, the IRS already has procedures in place to collect unpaid taxes from everyone. There's no need to duplicate these laws just for federal employees.
So, Washington, D.C., lawmakers, stop the political posturing and do your jobs, part of which is to give the IRS sufficient operating funds to enforce the tax collection statutes already on the books.
- Congress creates tax cheats
- Government workers with the biggest unpaid tax bills?
- Capitol Hill workers top unpaid tax list
- Effort to fire federal tax cheats on hold
- Tax time is tax-cheating time
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