The House next week is expected to pass several bills aimed at reforming the IRS, in particular the way the IRS handles applications for groups seeking tax-exempt status.
That issue has been highly controversial since it was revealed that the IRS applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status just before the 2012 election. The resulting scandal forced former IRS official Lois Lerner to leave the agency, although Lerner has so far dodged any punishment for her role.
House Republicans plan to call up several bills next week to reform the IRS in the wake of the IRS targeting scandal, which saw delays in processing tax-exempt applications from conservative groups. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON
For example, the Justice Department just said it won't prosecute Lerner for her decision not to testify before Congress about her actions in the targeting scandal.
GOP leaders say the IRS needs real reform, and quickly, to ensure it doesn't become a political weapon for whichever party runs the executive branch.
"The IRS has maliciously targeted individuals and groups simply because of their personal beliefs," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told his colleagues on Thursday. "The current system is unfair and America is fed up."
Three of the bills up next week deal with the targeting scandal. One of these, from Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.), would try to ensure the IRS can no longer play politics with tax exempt applications by allowing groups to declare tax-exempt status on their own, without having to wait for the IRS.
Another from Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) calls for the firing of any IRS worker that delays their tasks for political reasons, such as slow-walking the tax-exempt status of a political group. And the third, from Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), would require the Treasury Department to issue regulations allowing groups to appeal decisions by the IRS not to grant them tax-exempt status.
The bills are being considered long after the targeting scandal broke, which shows a lingering resentment among conservatives, and a feeling that reforms are still needed at the tax collection agency. Just last month, some Republicans accused the IRS of quietly working to undo some of the reforms Congress has tried to impose on it, by putting forward a budget plan that doesn't include language related to ending the political targeting of tax-exempt groups.
The House will also look at three other bills next week aimed at improving the overall level of customer service at the IRS. One would create a taxpayer bill of rights ensuring that taxpayers have the right to appeal decisions and the right to privacy, and another would require the government to keep people informed about ongoing investigations into the release of confidential taxpayer information — under current rules, the IRS is not required to tell people much of anything about these investigations.
Each of these bills are expected to be considered under House rules that allow for a shorter debate, but require a two-thirds majority vote for passage. The GOP plan to pass the bills in this manner indicates the party enjoys broad bipartisan support, since dozens of Democrats will be need to reach the two-thirds majority threshold.
House GOP leaders have said two other tax-related bills will also come up later this month, both from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).
One would make government workers ineligible for ongoing employment by the government if they have significant tax debts. That bill will be considered just weeks after it was found that current federal workers owe $1.1 billion in back taxes.
The other bill from Chaffetz would prohibit the government from entering into contracts with companies that have outstanding tax debts.