The Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act, H.R. 828, is meant to rein in the growing amount of unpaid taxes owed by federal workers each year. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who sponsored the bill, cited IRS data showing that federal workers were delinquent on $600 million in tax payments in 2004, but that this grew to $1 billion in 2009 and 2010.
"Those people who are trying to do the right thing, they're trying to rectify it, they're trying to come up with a plan… we're not going after those people," Chaffetz said on the House floor. "But for the other group of people who are just totally ignoring the law, they're not living up to their obligation, they're not paying their federal taxes, there ought to be more of a consequence."
Chaffetz also noted that the average delinquency rate for federal workers has climbed from 2.29 percent in 2008 to 3.33 percent.
"The intent of this bill is simple: if you're a federal employee or an applicant for federal employment, you should be making a good faith effort to pay your taxes or dispute them, as taxpayers have a right to do," he said.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) made a token effort to argue against the bill, by noting that the rate of tax compliance is higher among federal workers than it is for other Americans. She noted that more than 96 percent of federal workers pay their taxes on time.
But the show of support among Democrats shows there is some appetite for the bill in Congress. House passage sends the bill to the Senate, which has not indicated whether it would take it up.
In another late vote, the House approved S. 679, the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act, by a 261-116 vote. That bill would reduce the number of presidentially appointed positions needing confirmation.
Earlier in the day, the House approved H.R. 1627, the Honoring American Veterans Act as amended by the Senate, and H.R. 3641, the Pinnacles National Park Act, by voice vote.