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House panel passes four IRS bills
Less than a week before the tax deadline, the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday passed four bills that would place limits on the Internal Revenue Service.
The bills are expected to receive votes on the House floor next week, according to a release from the committee.
Two bills passed along party-line, roll-call votes. These would prevent the IRS from paying employees bonuses until a comprehensive customer service strategy is implemented and would repeal a provision of current law that allows the IRS to spend user fees without approval from Congress.
A third bill was passed on voice vote, though there were audible no votes. This bill would ban the IRS from hiring new employees until the Treasury Department certifies that no IRS employees have their own serious tax problems or submits a report to Congress explaining why it cannot do so.
The fourth bill, which would prevent the IRS from rehiring former employees that had previously been fired for misconduct, was also passed by voice vote.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said the bills are designed to make the IRS more accountable to taxpayers.
"Americans send a significant portion of their hard-earned dollars to the IRS every April," he said. "They deserve an IRS that is committed to delivering the highest level of customer service to American taxpayers."
Republicans on the committee expressed concerns that the IRS has been using money to implement ObamaCare instead of on customer service.
But Democrats on the committee said that the health law is current law, and they expressed concerns about significant budget cuts to the IRS over the past five years. They stressed that the IRS needs additional funding to improve customer service.
House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said the bills are "not a serious exercise in oversight of the IRS." Rather, Republicans are using the impending tax due date as a chance to make additional cuts to the IRS, which has already seen its funding slashed.
Levin also said that the IRS already has the ability to fire employees who have tax delinquencies. The Treasury Department, which houses the IRS, has a lower rate of tax delinquency than the House, he added.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) offered an amendment that would also prevent Congress from hiring new employees until Treasury certifies that none of its employees have seriously delinquent tax debt.
Blumenauer said he offered the amendment so that there is no "double standard."
But Brady ruled that the amendment was not germane.