Lawmakers Push to Protect Leave, Allow Feds to Opt Out of Tax Deferral

Categories: The Insider

AFGE voices support for members of Congress who are trying to shield federal workers from the ill effects of COVID-19 by protecting their leave and allowing them to opt out of the ill-conceived tax deferral scheme. 

Our union applauds a bipartisan group of 43 House lawmakers led by Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., who urged the Trump administration to allow federal workers to opt out of the tax deferral plan that defers payroll taxes between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020. Employees will have to pay it back by May 1, 2021.  

“Feedback from civil servants and service members we represent indicates that the withholding of payroll taxes has been chaotic and confusing for many of those affected,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. “There is widespread concern among the ranks of both groups that deferred payroll taxes will lead to increased tax bills in January and potentially even fees for those who are unable to repay deferred taxes.” 

AFGE President Everett Kelley initially urged Secretary Mnuchin to make it opt-in, or at the very least opt-out. 

AFGE also supports new legislation introduced in the House and Senate that would waive the 30-day annual leave cap for all federal employees. 

Normally, federal workers can only carry over 30 days of annual leave from one year to another. But because of COVID-19, the Office of Personnel Management waived the 30-day cap for those deemed essential workers by their agency. 

The Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act introduced by Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., in the House and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, in the Senate, would extend the OPM waiver to all federal workers because there are several factors that prevent employees from taking annual leave, including state and local travel restrictions. 

“Thousands of dedicated federal workers have been tirelessly responding to the coronavirus pandemic, including U.S. Postal Service employees, Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration workers, and National Institutes of Health researchers,” Senator Hirono said. “Our nation has leaned on them as they deliver medicines and Social Security checks, assist Americans with filing their taxes, develop a vaccine, and provide other vital services. This bill makes sure that no federal worker loses their leave because of this or any future pandemic.”  

“Federal workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard have been working tirelessly throughout this pandemic to maintain the Navy’s readiness to respond to national security threats and have avoided unnecessary travel to minimize health risks that could threaten this important work,” said Rep. Kilmer. “They shouldn’t have to sacrifice the paid leave benefits they’ve earned because they chose to prioritize national service…Federal workers shouldn’t have to choose between working to support our nation or using their earned benefits before the end of the year.” 

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