Advice for a long-awaited new IRS commissioner
By Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee
December 5, 2017
Last month, President Trump named an interim commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service as the search continues for someone to lead the powerful agency.
As the head of the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, which oversees the IRS, I want to make sure hardworking Americans are able to navigate today’s complex and outdated tax code. With the House, the Senate, and the White House closer than ever before to comprehensive tax reform that makes the tax code simpler and fairer for all Americans, I am committed to ensuring the new commissioner protects taxpayers’ rights, improves taxpayer service, and brings the IRS into the 21st century.
Over the last several years, the IRS has become embroiled in controversies. It needs to focus on administering the tax code in a fair and impartial manner for the vast majority of Americans who make good faith efforts to voluntarily comply with a complex and outdated system of rules.
The new commissioner has a significant challenge ahead, but the new commissioner will be setting the agency up for success if he or she prioritizes protecting the rights of taxpayers, making the IRS more accessible to average Americans and modernizing the ailing information technology infrastructure.
First, the IRS has a duty to protect taxpayer rights. While approximately 98 percent of the money collected by the U.S. Treasury comes in voluntarily, the commissioner should focus on creating and fostering a dispute resolution and appeals process where the taxpayer can feel heard and where the taxpayer’s rights are fully protected. That includes the right to be informed and the right to challenge the IRS’s position and be heard. Under current appeals practices, that’s not the case. The taxpayer does not have full access to the file being reviewed by the appeals officer. The new commissioner can change that process — giving taxpayers the due process they deserve.
Second, the agency must focus on being more accessible and providing more assistance to taxpayers. We must open the door for taxpayers to access support from the IRS. To do this, the agency must administer the tax code in a fair and efficient manner. This starts with focusing on clear and easy access for the everyday user. When taxpayers struggle to pay their taxes because of how complicated the system is, they are less willing to voluntarily comply with the process.
Taxpayers should have better access to filing support. Electronic forms would be another easy way for the IRS to improve taxpayers’ filing experiences. The IRS should create an Internet platform for Form 1099 filings; it should look for ways to boost electronic W-2 filings by employers; and it should encourage e-filing for exempt organizations. By improving taxpayer access to these types of support services, the IRS can become a more taxpayer-centered agency.
Lastly, the IRS must modernize its information technology and procurement practices. The agency must better protect Americans’ data. Modernizing means strengthening electronic record retention and enhancing the collection of delinquent taxes. With a streamlined IT system, the IRS would be able to protect Americans’ identities and prevent identify theft before it occurs. The Information Sharing and Assessment Center needs to be maintained and prioritized. The agency must create a single point of contact for victims of identity theft. Identity Protection PINs need to be enhanced. By prioritizing IT, the IRS will not only be able to better prevent and address identity theft and fraud. It will also be able to improve the taxpayer experience.
Concentrating on taxpayers’ access, prioritizing taxpayers’ rights, and modernizing infrastructure to protect taxpayers are the necessary stepping stones for an IRS in the 21st century. The commissioner must administer the tax code so that it is fair to taxpayers. From this important role, the new commissioner will have the ability to change the culture to one that is fair and balanced for taxpayers.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., is chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee.