GOP bill would criminalize IRS bias

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) on Monday introduced legislation that would significantly increase penalties against Internal Revenue Service workers who discriminate against people or groups for reasons related to political speech.

Turner's Taxpayer Non-discrimination & Protection Act is a reaction to the IRS's admission last week that it targeted audits on conservative groups, including those with the words "Tea Party" or "patriots" in their name.

"Americans of all political beliefs have been rightly outraged by the revelation of the IRS's efforts to target certain political organizations," Turner said Monday. "The fact that this could occur with little to no corrective action against those who seek to silence their fellow citizens is unacceptable."

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Under current law, IRS workers who discriminate against taxpayers can already be fired, although discretion lies with their supervisors. Turner's bill would boost the maximum penalty to a $5,000 fine, five years in prison or both.

The legislation says the protections guaranteed to all Americans under the First Amendment to the Constitution "shall not fail to be treated as rights" by the IRS.

"We live in a nation where respect for differing beliefs and a vibrant political discourse play an important role in shaping our government," Turner said. "This is about protecting the rights of all Americans, and their ability to freely express their political thoughts."