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Chairman Brady Op-Ed in Houston Chronicle: A new tax code calls for a new IRS

April 16, 2018

A new tax code calls for a new IRS

Houston Chronicle

Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX)

April 16, 2018


This week the U.S. House of Representatives is poised to approve the biggest transformation of the Internal Revenue Service in two decades. The goal is to redesign the IRS into a modern, 21st century agency focused on ‘taxpayers first’ service — quickly and fairly resolving disputes, reining in IRS abuses and protecting private taxpayer information from fraud.

Championed by both Republicans and Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee that I lead, we are moving forward a package of nine bills that will dramatically redesign the IRS.

The reason why is simple. The American people deserve better.

Few things in life match the dread of seeing “Internal Revenue Service” stamped on an envelope received in the mail. Even when families try their hardest to accurately file every tax return, it is possible to get something wrong. That minor mistake could lead to thousands of dollars in fines and penalties.

Even without the fear of an unexpected audit, taxpayers often find the IRS to be inaccessible and intimidating when looking for help. Most Americans would agree that the IRS has forgotten that they work for the taxpayers, and not the other way around.

The IRS mission statement is “provide America’s taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all.”

Unfortunately, in many cases, the IRS has failed to provide the quality customer service they claim to be striving for, even when it comes to simply answering the phone when a taxpayer calls.

In fact, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office reported in 2015 that the IRS not only had no strategy in place to define what quality customer service should look like, but there were no plans to develop one.

And for those who had fallen victim to identify theft, the situation was untenable. These taxpayers are shuffled from office to office, requiring them to share their story and submit their paperwork several times, to different teams.

Many taxpayers could also give examples on just how well the IRS enforces “the law with integrity and fairness to all.” When it comes to an audit, taxpayers feel that the old American maxim, “innocent until proven guilty,” gets thrown out the window.

Settling a disagreement with the IRS is a complex procedure which can leave taxpayers frustrated and seemingly at the mercy of a faceless bureaucrat who cannot be held accountable. With no transparent process in place, taxpayers have little faith that they will receive a fair review of their case and they have little recourse if they do not.

Current IRS technology does little to facilitate customer service or offer assistance during an audit. In fact, their outdated systems can leave the IRS vulnerable to serious cyber threats from around the world. Every taxpayer’s personal and vital information continues to be a target of bad actors worldwide and we are working hard to ensure that the billions of dollars the IRS spends on IT will adequately protect it.

Our IRS reform legislation will address all of these issues and more. Many of these provisions will help ensure that we have the modern, state-of-the-art IRS IT systems going forward that taxpayers need and deserve.

An independent Office of Appeals will be established, ensuring that customers receive a fair and impartial review of disputes. The IRS will be limited in its ability to seize taxpayer funds, such as the payroll account of a small business owner.

IRS departments will be reorganized to better support the needs of today’s taxpayers, with a focus on robust customer service. For instance, in the case of identity theft, a centralized point of contact will be established that will be responsible for seeing cases all the way through, coordinating with other offices within the IRS as necessary. Milestones and measurements will be set in place to ensure that the IRS is returning to its “quality service” mission, and will be held accountable if it fails to do so.

These are your taxes. And the agents at the IRS work for you, the taxpayer. This legislation will make sure they are obliged to remember that.

And just a reminder since Tax Day is around the corner. This is the last year taxpayers will have to file under the old system. The new simpler, fairer tax code makes it possible for nine out of ten Americans to use a simple postcard to turn in their taxes – instead of those long, confusing forms that often take a tax expert to figure out. A new, taxpayer-oriented IRS will make this process even easier.