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House Ways and Means Committee Passes IRS Reform Bills

Congress may not be moving anywhere on tax reform, but they are moving forward on IRS reform. The House Ways and Means Committee has passed several bills that add up into all the IRS reform measures addressing issues that have been in the news so much.

For starters, one of the bills prohibits IRS workers from using private email for official business.

It’s no surprise the bill was approved by the Committee in bipartisan fashion, given the IRS’ own recent history about lost emails and the importance this issue of private emails used for government business is going to have in the next election.

Other IRS reform bills approved in bipartisan fashion included one that enacts the taxpayer bill of rights and another one that streamlines the process in which an organization can apply for tax-exempt status. Another one exempts taxes on donations to tax-exempt groups.

All these bills are connected to the House Ways and Means investigations that began with an acknowledgment by the IRS that agents targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Investigations into the actions of Lois Lerner, who has since retired, showed that she and other IRS workers had used personal email accounts to send taxpayer information.

The IRS reform bills passed by the Committee therefore tackle all these issues. In his opening statement during the markup of these bills, Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan said that the point they’re trying to make here is this:

“The IRS works for the taxpayer, not the other way around. It’s their job to make doing your taxes as easy as possible. And so the burden is on them to prove any wrongdoing. The burden is on them to protect people’s privacy. And the burden is on them to tell taxpayers their rights. That’s the attitude they should have.”…
“Now, these reforms are simply common sense. All we’re saying are things like, ‘Don’t target people because of their political beliefs. Don’t tax donations to tax-exempt groups. Don’t send taxpayer information to your private email.’

The Ways and Means Committee also passed a bill that would eliminate the estate tax. This was predictably passed along a 22-10 party line vote.

If it becomes law, it will cost the government about $269 billion in reduced tax revenue over a decade. There’s no chance of that happening until after the next elections, and it would still need Republican control of the House, Senate and White House. 

Even then, it’s not something that the new President is likely to take up as a priority. It would especially make no sense if a comprehensive tax reform bill is in the works or already approved and does not include the estate tax repeal.

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