WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has preached that all Americans should pay their fair share in taxes, but a government report finds that tens of thousands of federal employees -- from staffers in Congress to federal agencies and even Obama's executive office -- collectively owe the government billions in back taxes.
Data from the Internal Revenue Service found that more than 279,000 federal employees and retirees owed $3.4 billion in back income taxes as of Sept. 30, 2010.
The data showed that 467 employees of the House of Representatives, or about 4.2 percent of the workforce, owed more than $8.5 million. In the Senate, 217 employees, or about 3 percent of the workforce, owed $2.13 million.
Obama's staff was not immune, either, with 36 people in Obama's executive office of nearly 1,800 workers -- about 2 percent -- owing the government $833,970 in back taxes.
Obama used part of his State of the Union address Tuesday night to promote economic fairness, arguing for changes in the tax code that would create a minimum tax rate of at least 30 percent on anyone making more than $1 million. The finances of one of his chief Republican rivals, Mitt Romney, has been scrutinized because he, like many millionaires, pays a lower rate because most of his income came from investments, which are taxed at a lower rate.
The IRS report attracted the attention of Republicans, who said it undercut the president's argument on taxes. "If Obama wants people to pay their 'fair share,' perhaps he should start with his own staff," tweeted Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.
White House officials noted that the delinquency rate among executive office staff had fallen from nearly 3 percent in 2008.