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Message to IRS: Uphold hardworking Idaho taxpayers' rights

by SEN. MIKE CRAPO/Contributing Writer
| March 16, 2023 1:00 AM

The Internal Revenue Code requires the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner, and all IRS employees, to ‘act in accord’ with codified taxpayer rights, including the right to be informed; the right to quality service; the right to challenge the position of the IRS and be heard; the right to privacy; and the right to confidentiality.

Idahoans have time and again seen the IRS fail to meet these obligations, and they are rightly concerned about the vitality of their taxpayer rights. The law requires the IRS Commissioner to ensure the IRS respects these rights. As the lead Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, I am taking actions to make sure the IRS is working for Idaho taxpayers, and not the other way around.

I stressed the importance of adhering to Idaho taxpayers’ rights directly to Danny Werfel, the incoming IRS Commissioner. The IRS exists solely to serve taxpayers and fairly administer tax laws. I pressed Mr. Werfel for commitments to make funding plans for the IRS’s $80 billion budget infusion through the partisan, misnamed Inflation Reduction Act immediately available to the public for comment; to not use supersized enforcement money against people who make less than $400,000 per year; and to reject proposals to collect sensitive, private data on Americans’ financial accounts.

The majority of the $80 billion funding boost for the IRS was earmarked for aggressive enforcement, while just a sliver was set aside to improve customer service. With a budget that now dwarves many other large federal agencies, the IRS must especially be transparent and accountable to all Americans. Unease about super-sized IRS enforcement hiring has nothing to do with supporting evasion by ‘wealthy tax cheats,’ but comes from a fear that the IRS will waste untold taxpayer dollars chasing speculative or marginal revenue recoveries, while hardworking Americans and small businesses end up in a dragnet.

When I offered an amendment to statutorily protect taxpayers making less than $400,000 from increased audits, only my Republican colleagues stood up in support. No one on the other side voted ‘yes’. While U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said we won’t see this 60-odd percent of the $80 billion spent on auditing those making less than $400,000, that is not what the law says, because my amendment was not allowed to be adopted. Unenforceable edicts are easily broken.

That is why I gave my colleagues in the new Congress another chance to solidify this promise by again introducing legislation to prevent the IRS from using its infusion of taxpayer dollars to squeeze more revenue out of hardworking taxpayers who earn less than $400,000 per year.

To ensure the IRS is transparent and accountable, I also co-sponsored the IRS Funding Accountability Act that would require the IRS to provide Congress with an annual plan for how the agency intends to use IRA funding, giving power to Americans' elected representatives, not faceless, unaccountable bureaucrats.

Additionally, I co-sponsored the Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act, which would prevent the IRS from requiring financial institutions to report certain private transaction data, like inflows and outflows of your bank and credit card accounts. Americans loudly rejected this idea in previous congresses but must stay vigilant.

The IRS must solve problems for taxpayers, not create new headaches. Hardworking Idaho taxpayers deserve prompt refunds and quick answers to their questions to the IRS. I will continue to work to prevent the IRS from using its new, massive funding to increase audits on Idaho’s small businesses and working families and focus where it should on upholding taxpayers’ rights and improving their services.

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Mike Crapo represents Idaho’s First Congressional District in the U.S. Senate. He can be reached at crapo.senate.gov.

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