Rep. Charlie Rangel isn't the only person on Capitol Hill with some explaining to do about tax problems. The Washington Post reports that 638 congressional employees owed a whopping $9.3 million in back taxes at the end of last year.
Delinquent taxpayers in the House owed an average of $15,498 and in the Senate, $12,787. The rate of delinquency among all Hill workers was 4 percent at the end of 2009, compared to an average of 3 percent of all taxpayers.
The findings are nothing short of outrageous, considering that Capitol Hill staffers help write tax laws and figure out novel ways to spend the taxpayers' money.
Altogether, federal employees owe $1 billion in back taxes. That number includes 41 presidential employees, who owed a total of $831,000.
The Post report was derived from IRS data, which don't include the scofflaws' names. So it's possible that there may even be a congressman in the mix.
Among the most notable Capitol Hill delinquents are three employees in the Office of Government Ethics who owed a total of $75,000. You'd think that ethics' officials would strive to be beyond reproach so they could investigate folks like Rep. Rangel without appearing to be hypocrites.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has a straightforward way to sharply reduce tax delinquencies among federal workers: Fire them.
"If you're on the federal payroll and you're not paying your taxes, you should be fired," Rep. Chaffetz told the Post. "There should be no special exemptions." He has introduced a bill that would allow delinquent federal employees to work out a repayment plan as an option to dismissal.
Rep. Chaffetz' bill recognizes that federal workers should be held to a higher standard on the tax front because they are paid with public money. And compared to most Americans, federal employees have great-paying jobs.
In any event, the bill would have a fiscal benefit: It would either collect hundreds of millions in back taxes or reduce the federal payroll.