The percentage of government employees and retirees who could be labeled tax deadbeats appears to be holding steady, at about 3 percent, according to the most recent data collected by the Internal Revenue Service.
The compliance rate for the government is somewhat better than the rate for all Americans. The nation's delinquency rate is about 5 percent, although the IRS cautions that the percentage is only an estimate and that it is difficult to compare federal employees with the private sector.
The IRS snapshot, taken in October 2004 and released this week, shows that 3.14 percent of employees and retirees had not paid Uncle Sam on time. They owed $1.9 billion in overdue taxes. The delinquency rate was up slightly from October 2003, when it was 3.08 percent.
The overall delinquency rate for government employees and retirees appears to be down from the 1990s by a couple of percentage points. Officials have said they regard delinquent taxes by government employees to be an ethics issue as well as a tax compliance matter. The IRS has been checking on federal employees since 1993 for a project called the Federal Employee/Retiree Delinquency Inventory, or FERDI.
For 2004, civil service employees and retired military personnel were the largest groups of tax laggards tracked by FERDI. The IRS said 3.8 percent of civil service employees and 3.79 percent of military retirees owed back taxes as of October 2004.
Government employees and retirees are considered delinquent if they have an unresolved federal income tax liability, either as a balance owed or because they have not filed a tax return, the IRS said. The agency does not count employees and retirees as delinquent if they have signed agreements to pay overdue tax bills on an installment basis.
The IRS matched tax data against payroll and pension records maintained by the Office of Personnel Management on more than 9 million government employees and retirees. The total includes members of the National Guard and the military reserves.
The IRS snapshot suggests that almost every corner of the government has its share of tax laggards, including the White House and the Congress.
At the Executive Office of the President, which had about 1,790 employees, the delinquency rate was 3.13 percent in 2004, up from 2.7 percent in 2003.
The delinquency rate also rose in the House of Representatives, with about 10,300 employees, and in the Senate, which had about 6,650 employees in 2004. The House rate was 5.03 percent in 2004, up from 3.7 percent in 2003. The Senate rate was 4 percent, up from 3.41 percent.
In general, agencies with large workforces had the highest delinquency rates and owed the most taxes. For example, the 2004 delinquency rate was:
* 4.89 percent in the Army; 4.13 percent in the Navy; 4 percent in the Air Force; and 5.04 percent for other Defense Department agencies.
* 4.59 percent in the Housing and Urban Development Department.
* 4.39 percent in the Veterans Affairs Department.
One relatively small Cabinet agency -- the Education Department -- posted one of the higher delinquency rates, 4.89 percent.
Some independent agencies showed up in the IRS review with notable delinquency rates. For example, the delinquency rate was: 7.01 percent at the Government Printing Office; 5.87 percent at the Smithsonian Institution; 5.56 percent at the Office of Personnel Management; 5.55 percent at the National Science Foundation; and 4.24 percent at the U.S. Postal Service.
Only 1.07 percent of IRS employees owed back taxes in 2004. IRS employees can be fired for failing to comply with the tax code, under the 1998 law that restructured the agency.
Larry R. Allen, director of the office of the secretary of defense systems directorate at the Air Force Pentagon Communications Agency, retires today after more than 42 years of federal service.
Bob Leins and Tammy Flanagan of the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc. will be the guests on "FEDtalk" at 11 a.m. today on federalnewsradio.com and WFED (1050 AM).
Johnnie Burton, director of the Minerals Management Service, will be the guest on "The IBM Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).
"Are You a 'Deep Throat' at Your Agency?" will be the topic for discussion on the Imagene B. Stewart call-in program at 8 a.m. Sunday on WOL radio (1450 AM).