Democrats offer bills to boost IRS audits of rich, corporations

Greg Nash

House Democrats on Thursday rolled out legislation to boost tax enforcement on wealthy individuals and corporations.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), the deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, unveiled a bill that calls for an additional $100 billion in funding for the IRS over 10 years, with $70 billion of that money going to enforcement. 

The bill would require the IRS to use the additional enforcement funds to increase audits of the wealthy and corporations. The measure would require the agency to meet targets of auditing 95 percent of corporations with more than $20 billion in assets, 50 percent of individual tax returns with income of more than $10 million, 33 percent of individual tax returns with income of between $5 million and $10 million, and 20 percent of individual tax returns with income between $1 million and $5 million.

The bill also would increase penalties for millionaires who falsify their tax returns to pay less than they owe.

In addition to the funds for enforcement, Khanna’s bill would provide the IRS with $20 billion for taxpayer services and $10 billion to improve its technology.

“We know our tax system is broken, and it’s long past time we start fixing it,” Khanna said in a statement.

The congressman announced the bill hours before a House committee holds a hearing about the GameStop stock market frenzy. Khanna linked his bill to the hearing, saying that “today’s hearing is just one example among thousands of the ways in which the ultra-wealthy play by different rules than the rest of us.”

Khanna estimates that his bill would raise $1.2 trillion in federal revenue over a decade, citing estimates from former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, University of Pennsylvania law professor Natasha Sarin and former IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti.

The Congressional Budget Office has also estimated that increasing IRS funding for enforcement would raise federal revenue, but by a smaller amount than Summers, Sarin and Rossotti have estimated.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, announced Thursday that he is reintroducing a separate piece of legislation that similarly would increase IRS funding and set target audit rates for wealthy individuals and corporations.

“My bill would make significant investments in the IRS to equip the agency to collect from top earners what the government is owed and set minimum audit levels to ensure the wealthiest are held accountable and pay what they legitimately owe,” DeFazio said.

The two bills are supported by a number of left-leaning groups, including Americans for Tax Fairness, the Center for American Progress and the Patriotic Millionaires.

Increasing funding for the IRS has long been a priority for Democrats and tax professionals, and there is also some support among Republicans for boosting IRS funding as well. The IRS’s budget has been cut by about 20 percent on an inflation-adjusted basis since fiscal 2010, according to a recent report from the National Taxpayer Advocate.

Tags Peter DeFazio Ro Khanna

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