The Truth-O-Meter Says:
Sullivan

"From the ‘Do As I Say Not As I Do’ department: federal employees owe $3.3 billion in back taxes."

Michael Sullivan on Friday, May 23rd, 2014 in a tweet

Sullivan claim about federal workers owing on taxes pegs correct figure, fails to acknowledge more of the rest of us are delinquent

Conservative activist Michael Q. Sullivan stirred our interest with this May 23, 2014, tweet: "From the ‘Do As I Say Not As I Do’ department: federal employees owe $3.3 billion in back taxes."

By email, the president and ceo of Empower Texans told us he drew his a-ha from an Associated Press news article, posted online May 22, 2014, which opened: "From workers in Congress and at the White House to active-duty troops, more than 318,000 federal employees and retirees owe just over $3.3 billion in back taxes, the Internal Revenue Service said."

The described tally, effective as of Sept. 30, 2013, included 714 of about 17,000 U.S. Senate and House employees, according to IRS officials, though the data behind its report did not indicate whether members of Congress were delinquent on taxes, the AP reported. Its story said 36 of nearly 1,800 workers at the White House and its agencies owed taxes, though again there was no detailed breakdown.

To our inquiry, a Washington, D.C.-based IRS spokesman, Bruce Friedland, emailed the relevant agency chart presenting the number of delinquent workers and retirees for about 100 federal agencies.

According to the chart, that $3.3 billion owed was a slight decrease from the $3.38 billion owed by federal workers and retirees a year earlier. The share of delinquent workers and retirees inched up from 3.2 percent to nearly 3.3 percent of all people in those categories, based on 318,462 of nearly 9.8 million total retirees and employees, the chart says.

Then again, federal workers and retirees appear to be less widely delinquent than taxpayers in general. The AP story said the IRS estimates at least 8.7 percent of all taxpayers are delinquent.

Sullivan, nudged about this aspect, emailed: "So what?... Federal employees should owe zero."

Our ruling

Sullivan tweeted: "From the ‘Do As I Say Not As I Do’ department: federal employees owe $3.3 billion in back taxes."

That dollar total is correct, though this message didn’t acknowledge that the 3-plus percent of delinquent federal employees and retirees compares to nearly 9 percent of taxpayers in general. Basically, fewer federal employees fail to pony up on time.

We rate this claim, which lacks this clarifying information, as Mostly True.


MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

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About this statement:

Published: Friday, May 30th, 2014 at 10:20 a.m.

Subjects: Taxes

Sources:

Emails (excerpted), Michael Quinn Sullivan, president/ceo, Empower Texans, May 23, 2014

News story, "IRS: 318,000 fed workers owe $3.3B in back taxes," the Associated Press, May 22, 2014 (accessed May 23, 2014)

Chart, "Federal Employee/Retiree Delinquency Initiative (FERDI)," Civilian/Military/Retiree Detail Report, Internal Revenue Service, as of Sept. 30, 2013, released to public May 22, 2014 (received by email from Bruce I. Friedland, media relations specialist, IRS, May 27, 2014)

Written by: W. Gardner Selby
Researched by: W. Gardner Selby
Edited by: Debra Davis

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