EXCLUSIVE: Trump officials feel ‘betrayed’ after getting slapped with thousands in unexpected back taxes
Christian Datoc 8 hrs ago
Former Trump administration officials feel shocked and betrayed after discovering they owe the federal government thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes.© Provided by Washington Examiner
More than a dozen former officials say they had not received any warning prior that they would be responsible for paying back the government in full, with bills ranging from just under $1,100 in some cases to just over $1,500 in others.
The Washington Examiner conducted interviews on the subject with individuals who, in 2020, worked at the White House or a number of executive branch agencies, including the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Treasury, and the Small Business Administration. Some officials received notices directly from the Office of the Administration within the White House, while others were alerted by the agencies they previously worked for, claiming they must pay upward of $1,000 within 30 days of the post-marked date. The earliest date an official who spoke with the Washington Examiner was notified of the back taxes was in the first week of April, while the latest was on May 18. The notices were distributed both by mail and email.
The payments themselves stem from the 2020 CARES Act, the signature coronavirus aid package pushed by then-President Donald Trump, which allowed employers to defer certain payroll taxes, including the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (Social Security) taxes and certain contributions to railroad retirement funds, as a means of relieving economic stress caused by the pandemic.
As written, the pandemic payroll tax relief only deferred payment of the taxes from March 27 through December 31 of last year and could only be applied to employees receiving bi-monthly payments less than $4,000, or roughly $104,000 per year. Employers were directed to cover the unpaid taxes by increasing withholdings in paychecks from January through April of this year. The fact that the majority of Trump officials switched employers between November and Biden’s inauguration in January, coupled with the salary cap on deferrals, means that an estimated half of all Trump administration officials employed during the deferral period will have to cover the costs out of their own pocket.
One former Trump official who spoke with the Washington Examiner called the situation a “nightmare,” saying it left them feeling “betrayed” by the government.
“What’s even more frustrating is that current employees could pay it off throughout the rest of the year, while we had a hard deadline,” the person stated. “I had asked to be on a payment plan but received no response.”
“It would be different if we were told about this ahead of time or given the opportunity to opt out,” a second former official said. “But we weren’t.”
A third called the timing “super vindictive, especially as they are preaching that we need to give people more checks from the government.”
A number of Trump-era officials pointed out that the structure disproportionately affects more junior staffers, whose salaries were much lower than the $104,000 deferral cap, and might still be looking for new employment months after departing the federal government after the Trump administration expired on Jan. 20.
“Seems like you’re punishing low-level government employees just for showing up to work every day,” another official suggested.
Three former officials suggested that hiccups throughout the Trump-Biden transition, and Trump’s own statements on the subject, prevented employees from knowing at an earlier date they’d eventually have to make these payments.
Trump frequently touted the payroll tax deferrals as a hallmark of his coronavirus response, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of private-sector employers opted out of the program. Federal agencies, on the other hand, were forced to defer payments by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.
The 45th president additionally promised to either forgive deferred payments or make the payroll tax cut permanent should he win the election, yet a post-election effort to forgive the deferrals for federal employees and members of the military was voted down by the then-Republican controlled Senate in December of 2020.
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Another former Trump official interviewed for this article claimed that the National Finance Center, an agency within the Department of Agriculture that handles payroll for the entire federal government, failed to provide proper guidance regarding the deferral repayments to employees exiting the administration. The official suggested that the chaos of the presidential transition led to problems with the rollout of the guidance.
Neither the White House nor NFC returned the Washington Examiner‘s requests for comment.