Politics

Four Bills Demanding More Accountability From The IRS Pass Committee

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter

GOP lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee advanced four bills designed to deal with the Internal Revenue Services’ major incompetencies during a markup Wednesday, just ahead of tax day.

“Americans send a significant portion of their hard-earned dollars to the IRS every April. They deserve an IRS that is committed to delivering the highest level of customer service to American taxpayers,” Committee Chairman [crscore]Kevin Brady[/crscore] said in his opening remarks. “That’s what each of our bills is about today – making the IRS accountable to the American people. Americans send a significant portion of their hard-earned dollars to the IRS every April.”

The first bill, introduced by Rep. [crscore]Kristi Noem[/crscore] of South Dakota, is aimed at stopping the IRS from rehiring an employee that was laid off for misconduct. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found this to be a major problem as many agency employees who were fired had failed to pay their own taxes, filed false documents and accessed sensitive information without permission.

“If the IRS currently thinks its current practices are protecting taxpayers then they need a reality check,” Noem said, adding the agency refuses to fix the problem on its own. “And the Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act is a simple bipartisan fix to a serious problem.”

Ranking Member [crscore]Sander Levin[/crscore] said while he objected to the other three bills being considered, he had no problem with the South Dakota Republican’s legislation.

Rep. Patrick Meehan’s bill was designed to ensure IRS employees don’t receive bonuses until the agency has “developed and implemented a comprehensive customer service strategy.”

One of the biggest complaints about the agency has been its lack of efficiency when it comes to addressing taxpayer questions.

“It doesn’t say you never need to pay out a bonus, it simply says do your job first and identify who comes first,” Meehan said. “We are asking to fill what has been asked by the GAO and more specifically by the taxpayers.”

New Jersey Democrat Rep. Bill Pascrell blasted the bill, saying they are not fully funding the agency for it to operate properly – a claim Meehan shut down.

“I’m going to make a factual point,” Meehan said. “The IRS received the same appropriations for taxpayer services accounts in 2015 as it had in 2014, however, because it didn’t get any extra money for the Affordable Care Act it repurposed $133 million from its own internals for the Affordable Care Act instead of doing taxpayer services.”

The third bill, sponsored by Rep. [crscore]Jason Smith[/crscore] of Missouri, would give Congress the power to determine how the IRS spends user fees.

“They (IRS) have not proven to this committee, they have not proven to the Missourians I represent and they have not proven to the American people that they are responsible stewards of user fees,” Smith said. “Their user fees collect almost $500 million it’s nothing but a slush fund. That’s why we filed the IRS OWES Act, it provides Congress and the American people better oversight on how the IRS is spending valuable taxpayer resources.”

The fourth and final bill marked up Wednesday – introduced by Rep. [crscore]David Rouzer[/crscore] of North Carolina, who doesn’t sit on the panel – which passed out of committee along party lines would force the agency to “certify that no IRS employees have serious delinquencies with respect to their own tax obligations.”

Democratic Rep. [crscore]Jim McDermott[/crscore] of Washington accused the bills of being designed to make the agency fail.

“It’s all because you’re mad over what happened around the allegations that they were picking on right-wing PACs,” he said. “Starving the IRS by taking away 3.5 percent in one bill and taking away the ability to rehire people in another bill – everything in here is designed to destroy the IRS. It’s bad legislation and you ought to vote no.”

Republican Rep. [crscore]Mike Kelly[/crscore] of Pennsylvania emphasized it is Congress’ duty to protect the taxpayer.

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