GOP marks Tax Day with challenge to IRS

GOP marks Tax Day with challenge to IRS
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The Republican National Committee announced Tuesday it was suing the Internal Revenue Service, as a range of groups latched on to Tax Day to broadcast their preferred message.

The RNC is seeking documents about the IRS’s improper scrutiny of conservative groups.

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Separately, the Tea Party Patriots used Tax Day to say it was filing suit against the IRS and the Treasury Department in federal district court as well, seeking information about how the government developed proposed rules governing the 501(c)(4) groups at the center of the targeting controversy.

The Tea Party group is also asking the court to force the agency to release documents detailing former IRS official Lois Lerner’s role in crafting the regulations.

Both the RNC and the Tea Party Patriots cast their decision to file lawsuits as an effort to pry information out of a White House that has fallen short on its promises to be the most transparent administration ever.

“On Tax Day especially Americans deserve to know whether they can trust the agency to which they’re sending their taxes,” Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusOvernight Defense: Inside the 3B House defense policy bill | Senators take new tack to challenge Saudi arms sales | Raytheon, United Technologies to merge Overnight Defense: Inside the 3B House defense policy bill | Senators take new tack to challenge Saudi arms sales | Raytheon, United Technologies to merge Former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus officially joins Navy MORE, the RNC chairman, said in a statement. “If the IRS and the Obama administration don’t have anything to hide, why not answer the request?”

The lawsuits were just two of a slew of Tax Day-related releases circulated on Tuesday, as advocates from across the political spectrum pushed for lawmakers to redouble their efforts to reform the tax code and the IRS.

But the attempts to grab attention also illustrated the difficulty that tax reform has had in gaining traction, despite the best efforts of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and the status of the IRS investigation after 11 months.

Speaker John Boehner’s office, for instance, issued a release titled “Tax Day, ugh,” insisting that “fixing the tax code” for seniors was a top priority for Republicans. But earlier this year, Boehner (R-Ohio) brushed aside a broad tax reform draft from Camp, who announced his retirement recently, with an abrupt “blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Boehner wasn’t alone in using Tax Day to push for tax reform.

The Alliance for Competitive Taxation, a corporate group seeking a rewrite of the code, circulated a video about the current “anti-competitive” system. The Tax Analysis Center, another group backed by business, made the case that corporate tax reform could help workers.

And the conservative American Action Forum pushed the argument that the tax code should be simplified, releasing a study saying that people in the U.S. spend 2.6 billion hours for 2013 filling out tax forms.

“The tax code is riddled with inefficiency and complexity that confronts taxpayers and the economy as a whole,” said the study’s authors, Sam Batkins and Gordon Gray.

The flip side of the reform debate didn’t let Tax Day go to waste, either.

The Sunlight Foundation took a deeper look at the links between a company’s lobbying efforts and their tax bills.

U.S. PIRG said the average taxpayer would have to pay more than $1,200 a year to make up for revenues lost to offshore tax havens. Plus, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee hosted a conference call with Democratic candidates they said were on the offensive on taxes.

“The right constantly tries to dominate the news around April 15, Tax Day, with an anti-government message,” said Adam Green, PCCC’s co-founder. “Not this time.”

Republicans have increased their fire on the IRS recently, with the Ways and Means Committee asking the Justice Department last week to take a fresh look at whether Lerner, the former agency official at the center of the controversy, should face prosecution.

The House Oversight Committee, led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), moved forward on contempt charges against Lerner as well. Camp, Issa and other Republicans have consistently complained that the IRS has been slow to get them the documents they’ve requested.

But those actions, and Tuesday’s lawsuits, also underscore that Republicans have yet to tie the improper scrutiny given to tax-exempt applicants to the White House.

John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, told USA Today this week that the agency would likely take another crack at its rule governing 501(c)(4)s, after getting more than 150,000 mostly negative comments about the draft released last November.

GOP lawmakers and grassroots conservative groups have slammed that rule, but even some more liberal outfits failed to embrace it. On Tuesday, Public Citizen said the news of another proposal was welcome, and would give the IRS “a great opportunity to provide an objective and easy-to-follow definition of political activity for nonprofits.”

As for Tuesday’s lawsuits, the IRS declined to comment, with a spokesman saying it “generally declines comment regarding pending litigation.”

Koskinen has repeatedly said he wanted to work with lawmakers so they could finish up their various inquiries into the agency’s treatment of Tea Party groups, and allow the IRS to put the controversy behind them.

The IRS commissioner has also scoffed at suggestions that the agency had been uncooperative with Republicans, or slow-rolling their document requests.

“If we were going to hide a document, we would’ve hidden some of the ones we already gave them,” Koskinen told reporters last month.