SEA President's Letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Opposing Tax Accountability Act of 2017

Dear Chairman Chaffetz, Ranking Member Cummings, and Members of the Committee:

On behalf of the Senior Executives Association (SEA) – which represents the interests of career federal executives in the Senior Executive Service (SES), and those in Senior Level (SL), Scientific and Professional (ST), and equivalent positions – I urge you to oppose the Tax Accountability Act of 2017, H.R. 396.

SEA wholeheartedly supports the concept that all federal employees, including employees of the executive branch, legislative branch, and the U.S. Postal Service, should fulfil their tax obligations. However, this legislation as currently crafted is overly broad, would be impractical and costly for agencies to implement, and neglects existing authorities already available for the federal government to ensure it receives taxes due by its employees.

There are many types of federal tax liability, many of which do not constitute a “seriously delinquent tax debt.” The mere existence of such a liability should not preclude an applicant or current employee from federal employment. Under current government policy, even for positions requiring a security clearance is a tax liability not grounds for automatically dismissing consideration. Furthermore, OPM Form 306, which is used for applicants for federal employment, already exists and provides for disclosure of tax debt and an explanation of such debt, including repayment plans.

I am also concerned with the practicality of having federal agencies screen every single applicant for a lien. Liens are often filed in local county courthouses, therefore the costs of staff time and effort necessary to discover such information would likely outweigh the benefits. Furthermore, I am strongly concerned about the privacy of employees and applicants that may be violated in pursuit of sensitive tax information, especially given this legislation does not outline who in an agency would have access to this type of information and specific penalties for illegal disclosures of personal tax information.

Finally, Congress has already provided agencies with authorities and programs – the Federal Employee/Retiree Delinquency Initiative (FERDI) and the Federal Payment Levy Program (FPLP) – to ensure tax compliance of federal employees and to garnish wages for employees who owe a federal tax debt.

For these reasons, I encourage you to oppose the Tax Accountability Act of 2017. Thank you for considering SEA’s views. If you have any questions or comments regarding SEA’s perspective, please contact SEA Executive Director Jason Briefel at [email protected].

William Valdez