ICYMI: House to Pass Roskam IRS Bills
By Ryan Ellis
The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on Tuesday on a pair of bills which could accurately be called a kind of “Taxpayer Bill of Rights.”
Both measures are sponsored by Congressman Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), widely regarded as a rising star both in the House GOP Leadership and the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
H.R. 2530, the “Taxpayer Transparency and Efficient Audit Act” would prevent “correspondence” with the IRS from becoming a years-long distraction for taxpayers. For one thing, any audit procedure would not be able to last longer than one full year–no more nightmares of IRS letters showing up month after month for years.
Additionally, the IRS would either have to process these claims or drop them with a new “30 day rule”: the IRS must provide a substantive, written response to any taxpayer audit correspondence within 30 days of receiving information from taxpayers. Today, it’s routine for the IRS to send letters saying the equivalent of “thanks for your response. We acknowledge and note it. We will get back to you within 60 (or 90, or 180) business days.”
Finally, the IRS would have to disclose to taxpayers any information sharing of the taxpayer’s data with state and local governments, or to other federal agencies. It’s important for taxpayers to know that when they send information to the IRS, they can at least track what happens to it when it exits the building.
H.R. 2531, the “Protecting Taxpayers from Intrusive IRS Requests Act” is even simpler. It would prohibit the IRS from asking taxpayers about their religious, political, or social beliefs. If the agency believes these questions are vital, the IRS commissioner would have to disclose to Congress the specific questions asked, the class of taxpayers to whom they are asked, and the circumstances in which the questions are asked.
This is obviously a response to the intrusive questions the IRS asked applicants of conservative non-profits over the past several years. Congressional investigations in 2013 definitely showed a political bias in these questions which were highly inappropriate. H.R. 2531 is intended to prevent any such problems in the future.
What these bills have in common is that they guarantee for taxpayers basic rights most Americans would say should be automatically expected. The IRS is a potentially-dangerous arm of federal power. It’s important that the natural accretion of bureaucratic leverage native to agencies like the IRS be checked with strong protections for ordinary, everyday taxpayers.
These two bills together can accurately be called a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” because they mirror what’s protected in the actual Bill of Rights. The First Amendment to the Constitution protects freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The Sixth Amendment grants all Americans the right to a speedy trial. Those themes are evident in both bills.
The House’s actions this week are a reminder to the IRS that they are subject to the same restraints on government power that the Founding Fathers imposed on the rest of the federal leviathan.