Senators Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have introduced a bill that would require the Internal Revenue Service to collect unpaid federal income taxes from civilian federal employees.

In 2009, the IRS found that nearly 100,000 civilian federal employees were delinquent on their federal income taxes, owing over $1 billion in unpaid taxes. When retirees and military are included in the total, more than 282,000 federal employees owed $3.3 billion in taxes.

The Senate bill would require all federal employees to be current on their federal income taxes or be fired from their jobs. According to Coburn’s office, “this is a commonsense bill that most Americans would believe is reasonable, necessary, and likely surprised that it is not already the standard throughout the federal government.”

The bill would render those with “seriously delinquent tax debts” ineligible for federal employment. These would be outstanding tax debts for which a notice of lien has been filed by the IRS, except when the debt was being paid in a timely manner, or when there a collection due process hearing or relief had been requested or was pending. Coburn’s office noted that the legislation only applies to federal workers who have willfully neglected to pay their incomes taxes and excludes federal employees from termination if there is a good faith effort on their part to pay up.

Under the bill, an individual who has a seriously delinquent tax debt would be ineligible to be appointed, or continue serving, as a federal employee.

Coburn’s office noted that federal salaries have increased an average of 4 percent since 1999 while inflation has increased an average of 2.4 percent, and federal salaries increased 3 percent from 2008 to 2009, outpacing inflation by 1.6 percent.  The bill is estimated to save $1 billion.

“Federal employees have a clear obligation, just as the rest of American citizens do, to pay their federal income taxes,” Coburn’s office noted.

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