The House Ways and Means Committee passed four pieces of Republican-sponsored legislation Wednesday restricting IRS employee bonuses, hiring and spending, with less than a week to go in tax season.
“Americans send a significant portion of their hard-earned dollars to the IRS every April,” said House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas. “They deserve an IRS that is committed to delivering the highest level of customer service to American taxpayers.”
The first bill, H.R. 3724, Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act of 2015, sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., would prohibit the IRS from rehiring employees who were fired for misconduct.
“[This legislation] is a simple, bipartisan fix to a serious problem,” said Noem. “The bill does what the IRS bureaucracy in Washington won’t—it stops the IRS from rehiring former employees who had been fired for cause.”
Another piece of legislation, H.R. 4890, IRS Bonuses Tied to Measurable Metrics, sponsored by Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa., would prohibit the IRS from paying bonuses to employees until the Treasury Secretary develops and implements a comprehensive customer service strategy that “puts taxpayers first.”
“The IRS has shown that it will prioritize bonuses over assisting taxpayers,” said Meehan. “This legislation would bring accountability to the process by requiring the IRS to complete a customer service strategy before paying out any more bonuses.”
The third bill, H.R. 4885, IRS Oversight While Eliminating Spending Act of 2016, sponsored by Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., would repeal the IRS’s current authority to spend the user fees it collects without congressional approval. The proposed legislation would restore to Congress full authority over how the IRS spends those resources. The proposal requires the Treasury to deposit the funds from user fees into a general fund that would be used for improving taxpayer services.
“The IRS OWES Act would allow the American people to have a say in how that money is used,” said Smith. “No agency should be independent of Congress and the American people in its own funding. This legislation is about safeguarding the American taxpayer, making the IRS beholden to them and not the other way around."
The final piece of legislation, H.R. 1206, No Hires for the Delinquent IRS Act, sponsored by Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C., would suspend the hiring of new IRS employees unless the Treasury Secretary certifies that no IRS employees have serious delinquencies with respect to their own tax obligations.
“I commend Mr. Rouzer of North Carolina for helping to shine a light on the fact that some of the IRS’s own employees have serious delinquencies on their personal tax obligations,” said Brady. “This is outrageous and the American people deserve better. [This] legislation is an important step toward creating accountability and restoring the public’s trust in the IRS.”
Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the committee, objected to the legislation. “The bills before us today are not a serious exercise in oversight of the IRS,” he said. “Republicans on the committee are using Tax Day – April 18th – as an opportunity to make further cuts to an agency that has already had its budget cut by around $1 billion over the last five years. During that time, the IRS was forced to cut 12,000 full-time jobs, according to the GAO. It reduced employee training, and it delayed overdue upgrades to information technology. Audits last year reached the lowest level in a decade, with less than 1 percent of taxpayers being audited. Those cuts also resulted in terrible customer service and long wait times for hardworking taxpayers.”
Levin argued that one of the bills would have the effect of cutting the IRS’s budget by $500 million. “Instead of increasing the IRS’s funding to levels needed to strengthen data security, enhance identity theft prevention, increase enforcement, and improve taxpayer services, the Republicans are introducing a bill that essentially cuts the IRS budget by $500 million,” he said.
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