1,168 IRS Contractors Owe Taxes

In high school if you hang out with the “wrong crowd” you can acquire an unwanted label and perhaps an unwarranted reputation.  It’s funny how many high school parallels we find in the adult world.  Associating with the wrong business partners can also cause serious damage to your reputation and credibility.  If you continue to do business with unethical people, then it is not too much of a stretch to assume that you are guilty of similar unethical practices.

The IRS knows a little about this.  According to a recent TIGTA audit report, 1,168 IRS vendors owed back taxes totaling $589 million as of July 2012.  Now to be fair, the IRS screens the companies it intends to award contracts to, and the IRS will not work with them if they owe taxes.  However, they do not have a system in place for continued monitoring after the contract has been awarded.  Also, to be fair to these vendors, owing back taxes is not necessarily dishonest or unethical.  In fact, in my experience, most people that owe taxes are good citizens and businesses that have made honest mistakes, procrastinated, and/or that have fallen on hard times.

The statistics aren’t really as bad as they appear because there is one contractor who is responsible for a whopping $525 million.  Still, this is something that the IRS really needs to monitor closely.  We know how increasingly important public trust has become at the nation’s most troubled agency.

Law Targets Government Contractors with Tax Debt

A law enacted in 2006 would have required governments at the federal, state, and local levels to withhold 3% of money owed to contractors with even the slightest federal tax debt.  The law is kind of in limbo at this point: it is slated to go into effect in January 2013 but lawmakers, including President Obama, are pushing to get it repealed. And it looks like it is going to be repealed despite data highlighting the widespread non-compliance of government contractors.

Arguments for the law:

  • Businesses should not be awarded lucrative government contracts if they are not going to pay their taxes.
  • It is needed to pay for Bush-era tax reductions.

Arguments against the law:

  • It assumes every government contractor is a tax cheat.
  • It will cripple some small business who simply can’t float the 3%
  • Contractors may pass the costs on to the government.
  • It would be difficult and expensive to administer.
  • Job protection is more important right now.

I have not seen the text of this legislation, but if it would require that government contractors fully pay their tax bill before getting fully paid by the government, then it seems that would also apply to contractors on installment agreements. Some installment agreements last 5 years or longer, so they would have a long time to wait for their remaining 3 percent!