Feds owe IRS $3 billion

Wednesday, Dec. 16
Posted 2 p.m. EDT

Feds owe IRS $3 billion -- Almost 300,000 government workers are in tax arrears.

This week a measure to give $5.5 billion to the IRS so it can bulk up its enforcement programs this fiscal year moved one step closer to reality. That's a good thing, because Uncle Sam apparently needs the money to police, in part, his own house.

The tax agency released data showing delinquent employees and retirees in nearly every federal agency that has more than 25 employees. The information was for the 2008 tax year.

The one bit of good news is that the Treasury Department, of which the IRS is part, had the fewest tax scofflaws. The noncompliance rate at Treasury was less than 1 percent, coming to nearly $7 million in unpaid taxes.

IRS employees who don't stay current on their tax bills can be fired for that oversight. It's the only federal agency with such an employment provision.

Of the major government operations, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has the worst nonpayment rate percentage wise, with 4.05 percent of its workers owing taxes.

Dollar-wise it's the Postal Service that didn't deliver. Delinquent workers there owe almost $280 million in taxes.

Offices of elected officials aren't off the hook, either.

Fifty employees in the Executive Office of the President owe $812,917. The Senate has 231 employees who owe almost $2,5 million. Across Capitol Hill, there are 447 House employees who owe $5.8 million.

Even the U.S. Tax Court, which often hears the pleas of taxpayers who are doing battle with the IRS over how much they owe, didn't escape. The IRS info shows three tax court employees owe $39,752.

Now in the grand scheme of things, a few hundred thousand federal workers with unpaid taxes isn't that big of a deal. And sadly, with a federal deficit exceeding $1 trillion and growing, $3 billion due from these workers is the proverbial drop in the bucket.

But at a time when Joe and Jane Mainstreet are facing economic hardships, Uncle Sam must get his house in order before he can expect the rest of the country's taxpayers to pay up without complaining too loudly.

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