The IRS released data showing the tax debt statistics of federal employees, and it has created just a little buzz. I realize that most of the stories circulating around the web these past few days carry the more impressive headline of “3.4 billion owed,” but that includes ALL federal employees, even retirees. There are a lot of federal employees around the nation. I think it is more impressive to focus on those closer to the president.
36 of the approximate 1,800 Obama staffers owe a combined $834,000, which equates to roughly 2% of all executive office employees. Of course this wouldn’t be nearly as big a deal if President Obama had not been focusing so much on tax equality and the need to fix the tax code so that everybody is required to pay their fair share. Many news sources are seeing this as an opportunity to find flaws with Obama and his administration.
However, for me, more than anything, this story is a reminder of how pervasive tax problems are in this country. Literally anyone can find themselves in a situation where they cannot afford to pay what they owe when they owe it. It is not uncommon for ordinary folks to incur a little tax debt at some point in their lives, and factors like race, gender, economic status, and education do not accurately predict who will owe. If an employee of the US Senate can owe back taxes (and according to the report, 217 of them do), then you could owe too.