More than 276,000 federal employees and retirees owed a total of $3.04 billion in back income taxes as of Sept. 30, 2008, according to new data provided by the Internal Revenue Service. The figure was up from $2.7 billion owed by federal employees and retirees in 2007.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development had the highest delinquency rate among cabinet agencies at just over 4%. The Treasury Department, an agency that includes the IRS, had the lowest delinquency rate at 0.98%. Overall, the 9.7 million federal workers included in the data had a delinquency rate of about 2.9%.
The IRS does not offer a comparable delinquency rate for income taxes paid by the public. But the recession has caused federal tax receipts to lag. Individual income tax receipts for the fiscal year that ended in September were down about 20% from a year earlier.
The nation's overall compliance rate, which includes taxes paid by small businesses and corporations, has hovered around 85% for several decades, according to IRS statistics. Most residents who owe back income taxes file returns but cannot pay the full amount at tax time, according to the IRS. Others have their tax bills increased through audits and cannot pay the higher bill.
The statistics on federal employees do not include those who are on payment plans. The IRS doesn't publicize the data, but makes it available upon request. The data was first reported by Washington radio station WTOP.