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Kelly Opening Statement at a Hearing with the National Taxpayer Advocate on the IRS Filing Season

March 07, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Mike Kelly (R-PA) delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee Hearing with the National Taxpayer Advocate on the IRS Filing Season.

Before the start of today’s hearing, Rep. Kelly and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the top Republican on the Committee, sent a letter to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman John Lewis (D-GA).  CLICK HERE to read the full letter.

CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing today. 

“First off, I’d like to thank you Ms. Olson for your dedicated years of service to taxpayers.  I know that I speak for all members of this Committee as well as our constituents when I say that the IRS better serves taxpayers because of your work and the work of the Taxpayer Advocate Service.

“Under your leadership, the Taxpayer Advocate Service has helped countless taxpayers in our districts get the information and service they deserve from the IRS. 

“You’ve also brought issues and problems affecting taxpayers to the attention of Congress, which we greatly appreciate.

“I look forward to continuing to work with you through the end of your tenure as well as with Secretary Mnuchin to ensure a seamless transition for the Taxpayer Advocate Service.

“I’d also like to take a minute to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their dedicated work during the last Congress on a bipartisan bill to restructure the IRS.

“The bill, known as the Taxpayer First Act, put the focus of the IRS back on customer service – on serving taxpayers.

“It included over 50 provisions, which represented the largest restructure of the IRS since the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998.

“Due to the tireless work of Chairman Lewis, then-Chairman Lynn Jenkins, and their staffs, we were able to craft a bill that passed the House three times with broad bipartisan support. 

“This bill included a number of commonsense provisions that would help make the IRS a customer-service focused agency, putting an emphasis on treating taxpayers with respect and providing them with the service they deserve.

“To make sure the IRS is indeed customer focused, the bill required the agency to develop a customer service strategy.  It also allowed the IRS to present a plan to Congress on how best to reorganize itself to carry out its mission of serving taxpayers.

“The bill also protected the IRS’s low-income taxpayer clinics, which are vital for those who cannot afford to hire a tax professional and made permanent the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Matching Grants program, which guarantees underserved populations access to quality tax preparers.

“Finally, the bill also took important and long overdue steps to modernize the IRS’s IT infrastructure, putting in much needed safeguards to ensure that taxpayer dollars don’t continue to be wasted on poorly planned and executed projects.

“With one of the oldest IT infrastructures in the federal government, it is essential that the IRS overcome challenges to IT modernization, many of which are not solely the result of budget limitations.  

“As we move forward during this Congress, I strongly urge that we make redesigning the IRS a priority. 

“We’ve proven we’re able to work in a bipartisan manner on this issue and Mr. Chairman, I’m committed to working with you on this to see it over the finish line.

“The IRS’s ability to serve taxpayers comes into focus every year around this time.

“It’s especially true as the IRS and Treasury Department continue to implement the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

“Through their hard work, the IRS and Treasury have updated countless IRS forms and released a number of very important pieces of guidance and regulations in preparation for the 2019 filing season. 

“All of this work has helped taxpayers adjust to the new tax landscape.

“Of particular importance, is the revised Form 1040, which simplified filing taxes for many by reducing the number of lines taxpayers have to complete.

“The IRS estimates that only 25 million taxpayers used the simpler 1040 form in 2017, known as the 1040-EZ. 

“In contrast, this year nearly 47 million taxpayers will be able to complete the new postcard 1040, according to estimates from Ms. Olson’s office.

“The IRS and Treasury also took prompt action to update the 2018 withholding tables to account for the increase in the standard deduction, elimination of personal exemptions, and reductions in tax rates as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

“The revisions to the withholding tables aimed to improve the accuracy of withholding so taxpayers keep their hard earned money instead having the government hold on to it, interest free, until it’s returned to them in the form of a refund. 

“Early filing season statistics show that the average refund amount this year is in line with last year, having even increased slightly.

“Thus far, the IRS appears to be delivering the 2019 filing season as normal. 

“I look forward to hearing from our witness today, Ms. Olson.  Based on her experiences working with taxpayers firsthand to address their needs, I look forward to hearing her insights on the filing season and on what the Committee should consider as we seek to refocus the IRS on customer service.”