GOP presidential candidates target IRS

GOP presidential candidates target IRS

The IRS has been a common target of 2016 Republican presidential candidates’ ire. 

That played out during Thursday’s debate when Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE (Texas) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector Senators unveil bipartisan push to deter future election interference Puerto Rico's children need recovery funds MORE (Florida) tussled over the agency’s future. 

Cruz criticized Rubio for leaving “the IRS code in with all of the complexity,” while Rubio said the agency couldn’t actually be scrapped as Cruz has proposed because some entity would need to collect Cruz’s proposed value-added tax.

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But while Cruz is one of only a few candidates who have explicitly called for eliminating the IRS, all of the candidates have attacked the agency.

Julian Zelizer, a professor at Princeton University, said that Republicans like to attack the IRS because they like to criticize income taxes as well as government and bureaucracy. 

“The IRS is one of the less popular parts of government,” he said.

While candidates who call for eliminating the IRS may think that it will be difficult to implement that pledge, calling for the agency’s abolition is a “powerful symbol” and a “rallying cry,” Zelizer said. 

With the 2016 tax season starting Tuesday and the Iowa Caucuses less than a month away, here’s a rundown on where the GOP candidates stand on the IRS:

Cruz: The Texas Senator is one of the most vocal supporters of abolishing the IRS. He often makes comments about how the agency could be scrapped because under his tax plan, people could fill out their taxes on a form the size of a postcard.

Cruz’s website states that under the candidate’s plan, “the IRS will cease to exist as we know it, there will be zero targeting of individuals based on their faith or political beliefs, and there will be no way for thousands of agents to manipulate the system.” 

In an interview with the Washington Examiner last April, Cruz said he sees shifting tax-collection duties to a smaller division of the Treasury Department. 

Rubio: While Rubio’s tax plan retains the IRS, the Florida Senator has criticized the agency, particularly in the wake of the political-targeting scandal. 

Last month, Rubio told The Daily Signal that pastors have reason to be concerned that the IRS will target them if they speak out about social issues. 

“We have an IRS that’s already targeted people for their political views. We have an IRS that’s targeted conservative groups for auditing, and special scrutiny, and so it’s not a stretch to say the next step would be that,” he said.

Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems flip Wisconsin state Senate seat Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP rep: 'Sheet metal and garbage' everywhere in Haiti MORE: The front-runner’s tax plan doesn’t call for eliminating the IRS, but he takes a dig at the agency nonetheless. Those who do not make enough money to owe any income taxes under Trump’s plan “get a new one page form to send the IRS saying, ‘I win,’” according to an outline of the proposal. 

Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonTrump must pair more respectful rhetoric with positive policies Trump honors MLK amid firestorm over racially charged remarks Reporter asks Trump 'Are you a racist?' after MLK event MORE: On his website, the retired neurosurgeon said that he does not think the IRS should be abolished but believes that the tax code should be “dramatically simplified.” 

However, an Associated Press article last March said Carson had told activists in South Carolina that the IRS should be abolished.

In 2013, Carson suggested that the IRS started targeting him after he criticized President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast. In October, he called for the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Council on Islamic-American Relations after the group said that Carson should drop out of the race. 

Jeb Bush: The former Florida governor’s tax plan does not abolish the IRS but would reduce its power. 

Chris Christie: At the Fox Business undercard debate in November, the New Jersey governor said that as a result of his tax plan, “I’ll be able to fire a whole bunch of IRS agents.” He told CNBC in August that people don’t like the IRS because they think the tax system is “rigged for the rich.”

John Kasich: The Ohio governor would “launch an independent, top-to-bottom review of the Internal Revenue Service and its practices with the goal of improving simplicity, fairness and integrity,” according to a campaign fact sheet.

Rand Paul: The Kentucky Senator, who did not make the cut-off for the primetime debate and refused to participate in the undercard event, has said his tax plan would get the IRS out of people’s lives.

“I’m running for president to defeat the Washington machine, and to do that, we have to drive a stake through the heart of the IRS and our terrible tax code, Paul said in a campaign video in June. On his website, Paul called the IRS a rogue agency under the current tax code that can “examine the most private financial and lifestyle information of every American citizen.” 

In a 2013 ad for the group Citizens United, he called for abolishing the IRS, according to the Associated Press. 

Mike Huckabee: Like Cruz, the former Arkansas governor has explicitly said he would eliminate the IRS. He said during the November undercard debate that said scrapping the agency is “the best part” of his plan because “the government has no business knowing how much money we make and how we made it.” 

Carly Fiorina: The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive wants to replace the IRS and reduce the size of the federal tax code to three pages.

Rick Santorum: The former Pennsylvania Senator said on his campaign website that he would “dramatically downsize, restructure, and reform the IRS.” He told Glenn Beck in October that under his plan, “there’s no IRS as we know it.”