Pascrell Opening Statement at Oversight Subcommittee Hearing on Free Tax Preparation Services during the Pandemic
(As prepared for delivery)
Good afternoon and welcome to the first hearing of the Oversight Subcommittee in the 117th Congress.
I am excited for the opportunity to chair this important panel again. We are following in the footsteps of a legend, my friend John Lewis. I know that I can never fill John’s shoes, but I promise you I will always do my very best.
The subject of today’s hearing could not be more timely, with the opening of the 2021 IRS filing season last Friday. We are going to examine the free tax preparation services that are available for low- and moderate-income taxpayers, as well as the elderly.
It is particularly important to make sure that these services are widely available and up to snuff. The economic disruption caused by this pandemic makes it essential that working taxpayers file their returns early so that they can receive their refunds ASAP.
Free tax prep services enable taxpayers to claim tax credits to which they’re entitled. Because low-income taxpayers depend on the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit to stay out of poverty, available tax prep services can be a matter of life and death.
This year’s filing season will be even more complicated than usual. Millions of taxpayers have yet to receive their full EIPs from our COVID relief packages and must claim them on their 2020 returns. Other taxpayers may discover that their 2019 tax returns have not been processed or they have been the victims of fraud. Free tax prep can help these taxpayers navigate this morass.
We will examine the IRS’s partnership with organizations participating in Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs.
Tens of thousands of IRS-certified volunteers help millions of low- and moderate-income taxpayers file their returns through these programs. The pandemic has forced them to adapt their services, moving to more virtual assistance. So we look forward to hearing what they’re doing to meet high expectations and needs.
We have an excellent panel of witnesses today. I want to thank these men and women, who provide free tax prep services to Americans in need, for their service and their testimony. Their perspective is exactly what we are looking for to gauge our readiness. We will be guided by their expertise and current experience on whether we should ask the IRS to extend the April 15th filing deadline.
I am delighted that we have one of my constituents testifying here today: Ms. Yvonne Zuidema, of the Passaic County New Jersey United Way.
I have visited her and her program, which is traditionally located right across the street from my district office in downtown Paterson. I know that the pandemic has likely severely disrupted their tax prep services and also greatly increased the demand for other United Way services in our community. I look forward to her testimony as well as the testimony of our other panelists.
Let me now yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Kelly of Pennsylvania, for the purposes of an opening statement.