Tax Lax in Capitol Hill

Presidential Candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have been in the news recently for their tax return details. More information shows that many Capitol Hill employees have been neglecting paying their taxes.  In 2008 alone, 447 House employees and 231 Senate workers haven’t paid their taxes. This year’s data from the IRS confirms that there are about $10million in unpaid taxes just from 3 percent of the Senate staffers and 4 percent of the House staffers.

In the past year alone, 98,000 civilian federal employees have neglected to pay their taxes, which add up to more than $1 billion. Congressman Jason Chaffetz has expressed strong feeling as he spoke about government employees not paying their taxes. Last year, he introduced a bill that requires to fire federal employees if they have considerable outstanding federal tax debt. The bill has been passed in June but still awaits full house votes. Chafftez says the Obama administration has completely ignored the issue.

Senator Tom Coburn introduced a similar bill in 2010 that made delinquent tax payers ineligible for federal employment. He said public service employees should set an example for the rest of the nation. Current law requires only IRS employees to be fired if they haven’t paid their federal taxes. Since 2004, though the numbers of civilian federal employees who have overlooked paying their taxes have decreased, the figure owed keeps increasing.

It was just under $600 million in 2004. But according to last year, it stands around $1 billion. Military employees and military reservists also owe almost $340 million in unpaid taxes. Federal and military retirees owe up to a total of $2 billion.

Popular opinion is that legislators and government employees should not be exempted from the laws they make and that they should pay their fair share of taxes. Some feel that the government is quick to pounce on the private sector if they’re late but refuses to look within.

The law that applies to the IRS employees should be extended to apply to all government agencies and departments. But representatives of the House think the legislation would be too quick to fire the employees, even before knowing if the IRS has erred.

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