Thousands of Federal Workers Owe Billions in Back Taxes

Image: A lone worker passes by the U.S. Capitol building in Washington
A lone worker passes by the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, in October.JASON REED / Reuters file

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From workers in Congress and at the White House to active duty troops, more than 318,000 federal employees and retirees owe just over $3.3 billion in back taxes, the Internal Revenue Service said Thursday.

That works out to nearly 3.3 percent of all 9.8 million federal workers and retirees who are behind on their taxes, which is significantly lower than the proportion of delinquent taxpayers in the overall population. The IRS said it estimates that to be at least 8.7 percent.

Those behind in their tax payments include 714 of the roughly 17,000 people working for the House and Senate, the agency said. IRS officials said the data used to compile the report did not indicate whether any of those delinquent taxpayers were members of Congress.

In addition, 36 of the nearly 1,800 people who work at the White House and its various agencies owe taxes, according to the IRS. The IRS provided no further breakdown of exactly where those delinquent taxpayers worked.

Even the federal judiciary branch had its share of employees with overdue taxes, 821 of them. IRS officials said the data did not indicate whether any of them were judges.

Agency officials said the IRS pursues delinquent taxes from federal workers the same way it goes after money that others owe. The agency will initially send at least two bills for the taxes it believes are due, a process that eventually can evolve into garnishing wages from paychecks or seizing property.

Almost 4.1 percent of active civilian government workers, or 116,000 of them, owe back taxes, the report said.

Among Cabinet-level departments, the highest rate of delinquency is at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where 5.3 percent are overdue.

The giant Department of Veterans Affairs, facing investigations about patients dying while awaiting medical care, has almost 15,000 workers who owe nearly $146 million in back taxes. Those numbers exceeded comparable figures for any other civilian agency.

The lowest rate of delinquency was at the Treasury Department — which includes the IRS — where 1.2 percent of workers had overdue tax bills.

A lone worker passes by the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, in October.JASON REED / Reuters file

- The Associated Press