House panel approves bipartisan bills aimed at improving the IRS
The House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday approved a package of bipartisan bills aimed at reforming the IRS, days before the April 17 tax filing deadline.
The bills, which passed the committee by voice vote, make changes aimed at improving the IRS’s taxpayer services, cybersecurity, enforcement and appeals.
The Ways and Means Committee has been working on efforts to modernize the IRS for the past year and a half, and its oversight subcommittee has held several hearings on the topic. Republicans had sought to overhaul the IRS following the passage of their tax bill.
The bills make several changes in the area of taxpayer services, including proposals designed to help low-income taxpayers. They would continue the IRS’s “free file” program, which allows low- and middle-income taxpayers to get free tax-preparation software, and would make permanent the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, in which the IRS partners with nonprofits to help low-income people and those who speak limited English with their taxes.
The package also includes bills focused on improving the IRS’s ability to protect taxpayers from identity thieves and cyber criminals. These include proposals that would codify the IRS’s public-private partnerships aimed at preventing ID theft and the role of the agency’s chief information officer; require the IRS to develop a program to issue identity-protection personal identification numbers for anyone who requests one; and for the IRS to provide ID theft victims with a single point of contact at the agency.
Additionally, the package includes provisions to bolster taxpayer rights during the IRS enforcement process — including setting an income level for the agency’s controversial private-debt collection program — and to create an independent appeals office.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said the bills “advance a modern vision for the IRS so taxpayers are treated fairly, their disputes are handled objectively, and issues resolved quickly and more affordably.”
The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Richard Neal (Mass.), said the markup “is a good example of what we can do when we work together on a bipartisan basis to develop good policy.”
He added that the tax-cut bill, which no Democrats voted for, would have been better if there had been hearings on it.
“There would have be an opportunity to create, I think, legislation that we would not be compelled to revisit regularly now during the next year or more,” Neal said.