A pair of senators have introduced legislation to prohibit federal workers from receiving bonuses if they aren't in good standing with their agency or the law, in response to a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that IRS employees who owed back taxes received lucrative bonuses.
Senators Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said Tuesday that they have introduced the Stop Wasteful Federal Bonuses Act, bipartisan legislation that would ban such bonuses for federal employees.
The senators' bill comes in the aftermath of the recent TIGTA report, which found that $2.8 million was paid in bonuses between 2010 and 2012 to 2,800 employees with conduct violations—including more than $1 million for over 1,100 IRS employees who are delinquent on their taxes (see TIGTA: IRS Shouldn't Award Employees with Conduct Issues). Some agencies, including the IRS, don't consider conduct problems, including tax compliance, when determining bonuses, the senators pointed out.
“Federal employees who have disciplinary problems or who haven't paid their taxes shouldn't be getting bonuses,” Ayotte said in a statement. “Taxpayers in New Hampshire and across the nation were alarmed by recent reports of IRS employees being awarded bonuses that they shouldn't have received. This bipartisan legislation takes common sense steps to prevent workers with serious conduct infractions from receiving bonus pay."
The bill would prohibit the head of an agency from awarding a bonus to an employee if the agency Inspector General, a senior ethics official of the agency, or the Government Accountability Office makes a determination that the employee's conduct either violated agency policy for which the employee may be fired or suspended, or violated a law for which the employee may be imprisoned for more than one year. The bill would maintain the prohibition for five years.
"The notion that taxpayer dollars would be used to pay cash bonuses to employees who've engaged in conduct that could get them fired or sent to jail is outrageous-and our bill would put an end to it," McCaskill said. "If we're going to restore Americans' confidence that their federal government is spending money wisely, then this is a commonsense step in that direction."
The bill also includes a mandatory clawback provision so that the employee—after notice and an opportunity for a hearing have been given—must repay the amount of any bonus awarded during the year in which such a determination is made.
Legislation Introduced by Other Lawmakers
Another bipartisan pair of senators, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., introduced their own bill Wednesday specifically aimed at the IRS. the No Bonuses for Tax Cheats Act, which would bar the IRS from paying out bonuses to employees who are tax delinquent or were found to have substantial evidence of misconduct.
In the House, Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, introduced H.R. 4531 No Bonuses for Tax Delinquent IRS Employees Act of 2014, on Thursday, which would prohibit the IRS from handing out bonuses to employees who owe back taxes. A companion version of Johnson's bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.