Dems, GOP roll out dueling taxpayer protection bills

A pair of Democrats and a pair of Republicans have each introduced bills that aim to protect taxpayers.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) on Tuesday rolled out the Taxpayer Rights Act of 2015, a bill they say is designed to help taxpayers and improve Internal Revenue Service (IRS) procedures and services.
{mosads}”Any discussion of tax reform needs to include ideas to boost access to IRS service and information, especially for modest income Americans, to help taxpayers complete one of their most important financial transactions of the year,” Becerra, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a release. 
“Our bill will increase access to quality tax preparation, help ensure taxpayers know their rights, and improve taxpayer services at the IRS.”
Among other things, the legislation requires the Treasury Secretary to publish a taxpayer bill of rights, grants the IRS the authority to regulate paid tax-return preparers and improves IRS procedures on liens and levies.
Cardin said the bill would “ensure that U.S. households with modest means have access to quality return preparation, along with the same knowledge and protection of their rights as other U.S. households.”
The provisions in the legislation stem from recommendations in the National Taxpayer Advocate’s annual reports to Congress. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen praised the bill, saying it “would substantially benefit our nation’s taxpayers.”
Also Tuesday, Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) introduced the Tax Return Preparer Competency Act, which would require professional tax return preparers to take exams and continuing-education classes and to submit to background checks.
“While Congress continues working towards a fairer, flatter, simpler tax code that will enable more Americans to complete their taxes on their own, we must also act now to rid out fraud and protect taxpayers from fly-by-night tax preparers who lack a basic background check and the requisite training to handle Americans’ most sensitive information,” Black said.
Tax return preparer fraud was on the IRS’ list of “dirty dozen” tax scams for 2015. A release from Black’s and Meehan’s offices stated that preparer fraud raises concerns for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). 
The IRS estimated that around one quarter of EITC payments were improperly issued in fiscal year 2013, and the National Taxpayer Advocate estimated that more than three-quarters of preparers who prepared returns claiming the EITC lacked a professional credential.
Democrats want the EITC, which is designed to help the working poor, to be made permanent in a deal that renews temporary tax provisions known as “extenders.” But some Republicans have been concerned about fraud in the program.
Meehan said the GOP bill “is a prudent measure to weed out scam artists and help protect taxpayers from identity theft and fraud.”
Tags Ben Cardin Diane Black Pat Meehan taxpayer protection Xavier Becerra
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