February 21, 2014, 08:57 am
House GOP to go after IRS
By Pete Kasperowicz
Less than two months before taxes are due, House Republicans will pass a slate of bills aimed at protecting taxpayers from IRS abuses.
The House GOP also plans to move legislation that would force the government to reveal more clearly how taxpayer money is being spent.
Republicans' legislative plans follow a year of constant scrutiny of the IRS, after the tax collection agency admitted it improperly targeted for extra scrutiny conservative groups applying for tax exempt status, delaying their approval.
Many Republicans said that act was an overtly political attempt to prevent these groups from having an impact in the 2012 election.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) is the author of two of the bills to be considered next week, both of which respond to the targeting scandal.
"Practically every day there's news of a new scandal at the IRS, and unfortunately it seems the administration is incapable of getting the IRS under control and restoring faith in the agency," Roskam said last year when he proposed the legislation. "The targeting of individuals by the IRS based on their political and social beliefs cuts to the core of American's trust in government, and it's time to institute reforms in order to protect taxpayers from further abuse."
One of his bills is the Taxpayer Transparency and Efficient Audit Act, H.R. 2530. This bill would require the IRS to tell taxpayers when it shares their tax information with another government agency, and limits the time people can be subjected to an IRS audit to one year.
Republicans are wary that the IRS will improperly share personal tax information with other agencies as it tries to implement ObamaCare and make determinations about who may qualify for tax credits when buying health insurance.
Another bill from Roskam up next week is the Protecting Taxpayers from Intrusive IRS Requests Act, H.R. 2531. This bill would prevent the IRS from asking about people's religious or political beliefs.
Both of Roskam's bills will be called up under a suspension of House rules, which means they'll need a two-thirds majority vote to pass.
GOP leaders are expected to call up another IRS bill from House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.). Camp's bill — which will be called up under a rule and can pass with a simple majority — would delay IRS rules that would limit the political activities of certain tax-exempt groups.
The House will also look at two other suspension bills mean to ensure taxpayers know how their money, once collected by the IRS, is being spent.
The first of these is the Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act, H.R. 1423. This bill from Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) requires all federal agencies to describe all programs under their agency, their costs, the number of employees running each program, and possible duplication. Reports would be due each year.
Agencies would also have to publish performance reviews, improper payment rates and other information.
Based on this information, the Office of Management and Budget would have to publish an annual report that identifies overlapping programs, and recommendations on how to reduce this duplication.
The second transparency bill is the Taxpayer Transparency Act, H.R. 3308. This bill from Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) requires Executive Branch agencies to disclose when advertisements are paid for at taxpayer expense.
The bill is a reaction to the Department of Health and Human Service's 2013 effort to advertise ObamaCare. But Long said the bill would also require the government to tell people when it's behind ads for food stamps or other government services.
"The Taxpayer Transparency Act requires government agencies to put a disclaimer at the bottom of any advertisement that is paid for by taxpayers," Long said last fall. "By calling attention to how taxpayer dollars are spent, my bill will serve as a reminder that all services provided by the government are ultimately paid for by the taxpayers."