Protecting Us From IRS Abuse: Roskam Bill Passes House
Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act. The bill eliminates the requirement for churches, charities and other non-profit groups to disclose confidential donor information to the IRS.
U.S. Representative Peter J. Roskam, the bill’s author, released the following statement:
“Today the House took an important step on our continued march to rein in the IRS and protect taxpayers.
“We voted to eliminate a confidential form the IRS proved incapable of securing. The agency has said it doesn’t even need this form for tax administration in the first place. Either one of these facts should be reason enough to eliminate an onerous regulation. In this case, we have both.
“I’m glad to see my colleagues embrace the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act and look forward to working with Senator Tim Scott on his companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.”
What they’re saying:
Richard Rubin, The Wall Street Journal:
The House voted Tuesday to bar the Internal Revenue Service from requiring nonprofit groups to list their donors on tax returns, punishing the agency for past failures to keep the information confidential. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), passed by a 240-182 vote. Republicans argued the IRS couldn’t be trusted with the information and questioned how useful donor lists are in audits.
Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times:
The House took a concrete step Tuesday to neuter the IRS in the wake of the tea party targeting scandal, approving legislation that would stop the tax agency from being able to request the names of major donors to nonprofit organizations.
IRS officials have signaled they don’t regularly use the information anyway, and it’s supposed to be shielded from public view — though the agency did leak donor data in one high-profile cases several years ago involving contributors to a pro-traditional marriage group.
After that, and in the wake of the tea party targeting scandal in which the IRS asked intrusive questions including names of donors, Republicans said it’s time to change the law and keep the hands out of an overbearing IRS.
Naomi Jagoda, The Hill:
The bill the House passed would largely do away with a requirement that organizations with tax-exempt status under section 501(c) of the code report information about donors of $5,000 or more. Under the bill, only donations of that size from groups’ officers and directors and the five highest paid employees would have to be disclosed.
Republicans argued that the bill is important to safeguard taxpayers’ privacy and increase IRS accountability in the wake of the political-targeting scandal. While the donor information is supposed to be kept private for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations, it has been improperly released in the past, most notably in the case of the National Organization for Marriage in 2012.
Bernie Becker, POLITICO:
Republicans have also noted that the IRS has considered scrapping Schedule B, the part of Form 990 on which tax-exempt organizations list the names and addresses of donors who give $5,000 or more. The House bill would only allow the IRS to collect that information in limited cases.
"The IRS has demonstrated an inability to hold this information in the past. They've demonstrated an inability to hold it in the future," said Rep. Peter Roskam, the sponsor of the measure and chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee. "If they don't need it, let's not give it to them."
Joseph Lawler, The Washington Examiner:
Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, chairman of the House Democratic caucus, said the Islamic State could spend on U.S. elections undisclosed if the bill became law. "You're opening the door for secret money to influence our elections," he said.
Roskam responded on the House floor that the charge was "absurd."
"As if ISIS is sitting around, not cutting people's heads off, and writing checks" for elections, Roskam said. He argued that the abuses cited by Democrats were hypothetical, while the harms done to conservative groups under the current rules are real.
Office of Speaker Paul D. Ryan:
Even IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said this information is completely irrelevant to an organization’s tax-exempt status. In fact, he claimed the agency is already considering getting rid of the Schedule B. As the commissioner told the Senate in July 2015, “On your 990 you list donors—although we’re about to try to change that. As a general matter, who gives to you should not matter as to what you’re about to do.” If that’s the case, the administration should support this bill.
So there you have it: A burdensome IRS form that the agency itself doesn’t seem to want or need but requires anyway. Not to mention that this information can be used for targeting Americans. We should remove every possible avenue for the IRS to unfairly target any American for their personal religious or political beliefs.
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, House Majority Whip:
“IRS abuse of personal information isn’t hypothetical—report after report from independent watchdogs have documented the IRS’s long history as an agency plagued by abuse, incompetence and gross mismanagement. The bill we just passed in the House ensures that no personal information is given to the IRS that could be used to target its political enemies. I commend Rep. Peter Roskam for his work to establish an IRS free from partisan politics, and we will continue to fight for the protection of privacy, free speech and conservative values.”
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, House Republican Conference Chair:
“Today the House voted to preserve the right to free speech, one of the most fundamental principles in our democratic republic. After the IRS’s flagrant abuse of power in targeting conservative organizations, it is imperative that we take every step possible to protect the privacy of the American people. By prohibiting the IRS from requiring excessive identifying information of tax-exempt organization contributors, there is an added level of security. I applaud Rep. Roskam for his work on this bill.”
Chairman Kevin Brady, Committee on Ways & Means:
“The bill before us today takes much-needed steps to protect taxpayer identities and ease the compliance burden on tax-exempt organizations.
“Most importantly, the bill helps ensure that Americans can never again be singled out by the IRS for their political beliefs.
“I’m grateful to Mr. Roskam for his leadership on this important issue, and I urge all my colleagues to join me in supporting the passage of this legislation.”
Chairman Bill Flores, Republican Study Committee:
“Today, the House passed critical legislation to protect Americans’ First Amendment right to free speech and assembly. The Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act will prevent the Internal Revenue Service from misusing or abusing personal donor information. While the Supreme Court has long upheld that states cannot compel non-profits to disclose their donor information, recent actions by the IRS, which targeted conservative groups’ tax-exempt status, as well as intimidation efforts by state attorneys general have reinforced the need to eliminate threats to the constitutional rights of non-profit groups. Today’s legislation will allow non-profits of all beliefs to continue to exercise their Constitutional rights.”
Chairman Jim Jordan, House Freedom Caucus:
“The Freedom Caucus applauds the passage of H.R. 5053, which will safeguard Americans’ First Amendment right to free speech, without risk of government retaliation. There is no reason the IRS needs the personal information of donors to tax-exempt organizations, particularly in light of the agency’s track record of abusing its power by targeting conservative organizations and individuals.
"The Freedom Caucus, which has long worked to hold the IRS accountable for past and continuing abuses of power, took an official position in support of H.R. 5053. We are grateful to Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) for his leadership on this issue and we encourage the Senate to take up the bill.”