Congresswoman Martha Roby

Representing the 2nd District of Alabama

IRS Reforms Pass on Tax Week

April 22, 2016
Representative Roby's Weekly Column

As Americans “rendered unto Caesar” by paying their taxes this past week, the U.S. House of Representatives took action on a slate of bills aimed at bringing transparency and accountability to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

The agency charged with collecting our taxes ought to conduct itself with the highest standards of integrity so as to engender trust and confidence in the people they serve. Unfortunately, recent scandals at the IRS have done the opposite, eroding Americans’ trust in this agency and compromising its ability to operate above reproach.  

The IRS has done little to police itself or even own up to its misdeeds. As you may remember, last year former IRS Commissioner Lois Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions when called to testify before Congress. Current Commissioner John Koskinen’s relationship with Congress has been similarly rocky, as his leadership team has failed to fully comply with Congressional inquiries seeking emails and other communications related to the political targeting scandal. Unsurprisingly, the Justice Department declined to press charges against Lerner or any other IRS managers for the targeting of individuals and groups based on their political beliefs.

The House Ways and Means Committee, which retains jurisdiction over the IRS, has been working on several measures that came before the full House this past week. Among them:

  • H.R. 3749, the Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act, sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, would bar the IRS from rehiring former employees who were fired for misconduct; 
  • H.R. 4890, the IRS Bonuses Tied to Measurable Metrics Act, sponsored by Rep. Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania, would prohibit the IRS from issuing any more employee bonuses without consideration for how its customers – the American taxpayers – have been served;
  • H.R. 4885, the IRS Oversight While Eliminating Spending Act, sponsored by Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, takes away the IRS’ ability to spend a “slush fund” of taxpayer fees without oversight from Congress;
  • And, H.R. 1206, the No Hires for the Delinquent IRS Act, sponsored by Rep. David Rouser of North Carolina, would forbid the IRS from hiring employees with an outstanding tax debt.

Each of these bills passed the House and advanced to the Senate. Much of the content in these bills has already been enacted as appropriations policy “riders” the last two years. However, those appropriations laws expire at the end of each fiscal year, which is why the House has sought to permanently codify these commonsense policies.

While it is a shame this kind of legislation is even needed, Congress has a responsibility to expose and put a stop to wrongdoing in federal agencies.