Senators want more tax help for federal employees who relocate

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  • Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) said federal agencies aren’t proactively helping employees understand how or if they should pay taxes on moving expenses for their jobs. The senators wrote to General Services Administrator Emily Murphy, detailing how federal employees are confused about recent changes to the relocation income tax allowance, and the withholding tax allowance for their moving expenses. GSA announced back in May that these allowances would cover most of federal employees’ increased tax liabilities. (Sen. Mark Warner)
  • Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie about the agency’s struggles to pay education benefits on time. VA has at least 73,000 claims to pay out to veterans eligible for benefits under the new GI bill. Enzi wants to know how much money VA has spent on the problem so far. He also wants to know about the current status of the IT upgrades VA says it needs to correct the situation. (Senate Budget Committee)
  • Add National Nurses United to the list of employee unions suing VA . The group of registered VA nurses is suing the department over a recent decision to eliminate official time for some doctors and nurses. The American Federation of Government Employees and National Federation of Federal Employees also sued VA over Secretary Wilkie’s decision to cut official time. Both lawsuits sit in federal district court. National Nurses United represents 11,000 VA nurses. (National Nurses United)
  • There’s a new whistleblower coordinator position at the National Security Agency’s Office of the Inspector General. NSA IG Robert Storch said he modeled the job after his previous position as whistleblower ombudsperson at the Justice Department OIG .The position will help with questions about what is a lawful disclosure for agency employees. (Federal News Network)
  • The Census Bureau launched its jobs website to hire thousands of temporary workers in the ramp-up to the 2020 population count. Census will hire most of its short-term workforce starting next summer, making a few this fall and winter. The agency has streamlined the application to only take about 30 minutes to complete. (2020 Census)
  • The IRS hasn’t quite fixed the problem of dealing with identity theft. While the IRS has made progress in helping tax payers who’ve experienced personal data losses, the agency can be inconsistent. That’s what the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found when it audited the IRS Return Integrity and Compliance Services group. In 2017, the group recorded 730 known data breaches in its tracking matrix. But it missed another 89. IRS officials have agreed to tighten their procedures. (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration)
  • Trey Glenn, regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 4 office resigned following an indictment. Region 4 oversees eight states in the Southeast. The Alabama Ethics Commission last week announced Glenn was indicted on multiple counts of conspiracy and complicity with another former member. Glenn maintains he is innocent. (Associated Press)
  • The Defense Department’s JEDI contract has cleared its first bid protest hurdle, but it’s not out of the woods yet. The Government Accountability Office shot down most of the arguments Oracle raised in its pre-award protest. But on one key point, GAO left the door open to another challenge. Oracle had complained about a conflict of interest, because a defense official who helped plan the procurement went on to work at Amazon Web Services, potentially giving AWS unique insights to help craft its bid. GAO said it won’t rule on that issue for now, but it’s ready and willing consider it once the contract is issued. (Government Accountability Office)
  • It’s like Shark Tank for the U.S. Air Force. The branch announced its first ever Pitch Day will take place March 6 and 7, 2019. The goal is to give small, startup companies a chance to show off their ideas to the service and walk away that day with a contract. The Air Force will invest $40 million in contracts over the two days. (Federal News Network)
  • Airmen can now report safety issues on bases right from their phones. The Air Force Safety Center released a mobile version of the Airman Safety App. The app has been around since the end of 2009, but was only accessible through a website. Since its creation, 4,500 submissions have been reported by airmen. (Air Force)
  • The FAA claimed success with an online system for registering drones to fly in controlled airspace. The Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, or LAANC, has exceeded its objectives, FAA officials said. Since its launch in November 2017, it’s processed more than 50,000 applications to fly drones near 500 airports. FAA operates LAANC through 14 contractors, and said commercial and governmental drone owners can get nearly instantaneous approval. The system combines airspace data from several sources. (Federal Aviation Administration)