Dems push to block private debt collectors from IRS work

Dems push to block private debt collectors from IRS work
© Getty Images

Several top House Democrats are looking to kill a provision of the House highway bill that would require the IRS to deploy private debt collectors to track down delinquent taxpayers.

Arguing that private collectors have been found to engage in aggressive and abusive behavior, the lawmakers have filed an amendment to strip the language from a $325 billion transportation bill.

ADVERTISEMENT

Consumer groups, the IRS employees union and the head of the IRS have opposed forcing the IRS to use private debt collectors.

“We agree that it is vitally important that we fully finance a robust investment in our nation’s infrastructure. However, we should not pay for that investment by subjecting our taxpayers to these abusive practices,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “This provision must be removed.”

Among the Democrats pushing to kill the provision are Reps. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee; Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Budget Committee; and John Lewis (D-Ga.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight.

A similar provision included in the Senate highway bill was estimated to raise $2.4 billion over 10 years, under the assumption that private collectors would help collect more taxes.

But the Democrats argued that the last time the IRS experimented with private collectors in 2006, the government actually lost money in the effort.

In a 2014 letter, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said his agency looked into private collectors at the time to go after cases the IRS lacked the resources to track itself. But when it was all said and done, the private collectors were no more effective than IRS agents, and when accounting for the startup costs of the program, cost the agency $4.4 million.

With the Senate highway bill already passed, House Democrats are trying to kill the debt-collection provision in the House, before it likely would become law. But their effort will have to get into a long line, as members have introduced nearly 270 amendments to the highway bill, which is set for a floor vote later in the week.