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Boustany Statement: Hearing on the National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2009 Report on the Most Serious Problems Encountered by Taxpayers

March 16, 2010

(Remarks as Prepared)

Mr. Chairman, thank you for yielding time.
And Ms. Olson, thank you once again for appearing before the Subcommittee to represent the interests of one of the groups most in need of Washington representation – average American taxpayers.  You do a great service to our country and I thank you for your tireless advocacy on behalf of those taxpayers. 

We are holding this hearing today – as we do every year – to examine the most serious problems encountered by taxpayers in their dealings with the federal tax laws and the Internal Revenue Service.  This year, however, the timing of the hearing is fortuitous.  For if the House Democratic leadership is to be believed, than by the end of the week Congress might have enacted a piece of legislation that vastly expands the scope of the IRS’s responsibilities, and fundamentally alters the relationship between the IRS and taxpayers.  That piece of legislation is H.R. 3590, the Senate-passed health care bill.

I noticed that in this year’s report, Ms. Olson included an extensive discussion on the risks and challenges involved in running social programs through the tax system.  Jumping off from that discussion, I would point out that the Senate health care bill creates by far the largest social program ever run through the IRS.  While the Senate bill delegate’s enforcement of numerous parts of the health insurance system to the IRS, one of the most troubling expansions of IRS power is the power to approve a taxpayer’s health insurance as sufficient to meet the definition of minimum coverage required to be purchased by law.  This is the so-called “individual mandate.”

Under the Senate’s individual mandate, the IRS would be in charge of verifying that every American taxpayer has obtained acceptable health coverage for every month of the year.  If the IRS determines that a taxpayer lacks acceptable insurance for even a single month, then the IRS would have the power to impose a new tax on that taxpayer, even auditing the taxpayer and assessing interest and penalties on top of the tax.  This is an unprecedented new role for the IRS – one that will inject the IRS even further into the personal lives of American families.

In a few moments, I intend to ask Ms. Olson to share her thoughts on what problems might arise – both between the IRS and taxpayers, and within the IRS itself – if House Democrats decide to send the Senate bill on to the President and make it the law of the land.  Ms. Olson, I look forward to your testimony and your responses.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I yield back.