About 8,400 federal workers and contractors who received security clearances from 2006 through 2012 collectively owe some $85 million in back taxes, a new government report finds.
According to the report from the Government Accountability Office, only about half of them have set up repayment plans, The Washington Post reports
"Federal tax cheats with security clearances are double threats that jeopardize both our national and economic security," Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
"It is imperative the administration and Congress quickly take action to eliminate this egregious and preventable practice."
According to the GAO report, the amounts owed ranged from a low of $100 to a high of $2 million. The median debt was about $3,800.
More than half, 4,700, are federal workers and the rest are employees of private companies holding government contracts. The total of those behind on their taxes makes up about 3.4 percent of all employees and contractors who were hired during that time period.
The GAO is recommending that the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of Personnel Management, the department responsible for conducting the background investigations, determine whether debt information from the Treasury Department should be in included in the process of determining security clearances.
In the meantime, a bipartisan group of senators — Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Democrats Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitcamp of North Dakota — have co-authored a bill that would require more follow-up on background checks for those who have security clearances.
According to the GAO. about 75 percent of the what Coburn labeled "tax cheats" with security clearances did not actually owe the back taxes when they were approved for a security clearance.
The security clearance process has become a growing concern over the last few months, following the disclosure that National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's background check
was found to be inadequate for his level of clearance.
Investigators came to the same conclusion about Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, who was granted a security clearance
despite an arrest for shooting at a car and his history of mental issues.
Sen. Coburn: Contractor's Security Clearance System Broken
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