Tax Day Twist: House Slaps IRS With Bills

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Taxpayers weren’t the only ones laboring over Internal Revenue Service chores Wednesday, tax-filing deadline; the House of Representatives spent a busy day passing more than a half dozen bills aimed at reforming the agency everyone loves to hate.

Among the seven bills, all sponsored by Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the IRS, one seeks to prevent the agency from targeting individuals for their political beliefs and another would ban the use of personal email use for official business. All of the bills passed the House by a voice vote, with no members of Congress objecting, including Democrats.

“This is about stamping out a culture of arrogance at the IRS,” Speaker John Boehner said in a statement after the votes. “It is a culture in which bureaucrats have willfully targeted citizens for their political beliefs, seized assets from law-abiding small business owners, and routinely wasted taxpayer dollars.”

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., sponsored the first bill, a taxpayer bill of rights that he also had introduced in the previous Congress, which establishes certain rights such as quality service, confidentiality and an appeals process. The IRS has the bill of rights posted online, though it hasn’t become law yet. Roskam also sponsored legislation certifying that gifts to nonprofit organizations are not subject to a gift tax, no matter their value.

“The overwhelming bipartisan passage of these important bills to rein in IRS abuse is a victory for American taxpayers,” Roskam said in a statement. “This marks a major step forward in our common quest to strengthen transparency and accountability at the IRS—an agency in desperate need for a complete makeover and cultural change.”

Another bill prohibited IRS employees from using personal emails to conduct official business – interestingly, it was introduced shortly before the revelation that newly announced presidential candidate Hillary Clinton exclusively used personal email while she was secretary of state. Another would force the IRS to fire any employee found to be targeting groups or individuals for political reasons, which was the cause of a major scandal in 2013 when some conservative groups were singled out for scrutiny.

The final three bills that passed included one that would allow nonprofits to declare tax-free status immediately rather than waiting for approval from the IRS; one that would make it legal for the IRS to release information of ongoing investigations to taxpayers being investigated; and one bill to allow organizations to appeal if they are denied tax-exempt status.

Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee -- which passed all of these measures several weeks ago – released a statement praising their passage in the full House before turning the subject toward his goal of overhauling the entire tax code.

“We've said from Day One that we're going to clean up the IRS, and these bills are a key part of that effort,” Ryan said. “These are common-sense, bipartisan reforms that will provide real accountability and help make sure people are never unfairly targeted again … If we really want to give relief to taxpayers and create opportunity in our country, we need to overhaul our broken tax code to make it simpler, flatter, and fairer for all Americans. These bills are a firm step forward."

Tax reform has been one of the major goals of Republicans since taking control of both chambers of Congress. In a briefing with reporters earlier this year, Ryan said he thinks major tax reform will need to be finished by the end of this summer if it’s going to be done at all in the next two years.

It's unlikely the measures will be taken up by the Senate anytime soon, given the Senate’s jam-packed calendar over the next few weeks.

 

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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