IRS employees best Congress in tax compliance

IRS staffers are far more likely to be up to date on their taxes than those employed by Congress, according to new data from the tax agency.

Roughly 1.2 percent of Treasury Department employees were delinquent on their taxes at the end of fiscal 2013, the lowest among any of the executive branch departments.

IRS staffers are even less likely to have tax issues, with just 0.9 percent of agency employees behind on their taxes.

That rate is several times lower than the 4.9 percent delinquency rate for House employees and the 3.2 percent rate for Senate staffers. In all, more than 700 congressional staffers owed some $8.6 million in back taxes.

The total delinquency rate for federal employees is 3.3 percent, up just a tick from 3.2 percent in 2012.

The IRS has come under congressional pressure in recent weeks after a Treasury inspector general found that the agency had given over $1 million in bonuses to agency staffers with tax compliance issues over a two-plus year span.

IRS employees with conduct issues received $2.8 million in all in bonuses during that time span, as well as extra time off.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including GOP leaders, have signed on to legislation to bar IRS employees who have violated tax law or are delinquent on their taxes from getting a bonus.

John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, has said he’s working with the National Treasury Employees Union to try to limit those bonuses. The IRS already has a policy to ensure that senior executives with tax issues don't get bonuses.

But Koskinen has also told lawmakers in congressional testimony that IRS employees have a much better record on their taxes than the rest of the federal workforce.

The IRS commissioner angered lawmakers shortly after arriving on the job when he awarded millions of dollars in bonuses, even as the agency was mired in the controversy surrounding its treatment of Tea Party groups. 

“The compliance rate of IRS employees is over 99 percent,” Koskinen told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee last month.

“That is significantly better than anybody else in the federal government and significantly better than people on the Hill, and it's clearly substantially better than the public.”

Housing and Urban Development had the highest delinquency rate among departments, at 5.3 percent. Six other departments, including Defense and Veterans’ Affairs, had at least 4 percent of staffers with tax compliance issues.

The Government Printing Office, meanwhile, had around 8 percent of staffers behind on their taxes. The U.S Postal Service came in at 4.9 percent, meaning some 30,000 employees weren’t up to date on their taxes. 

This post was updated at 5:15 p.m.