Ranking Member Lewis Opening Statement at Oversight Subcommittee Hearing on IRS-Taxpayer Disputes
(Remarks as prepared)
Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing on resolving taxpayer disputes with the Internal Revenue Service. I would also like to thank our witnesses for being here today.
Before we begin, I would like to take a moment to extend my condolences to you, Mr. Chairman, and the millions of Americans, who were impacted by the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and the Southern States. As you know, the hurricane damaged homes, downed trees, closed roads, and left about one million residents without power in my home state of Georgia.
Now, our constituents begin the difficult process of rebuilding their homes, their communities, and their lives, and I hope this Committee will work together to do all we can to assist the recovery efforts.
Mr. Chairman, I have said it before, and I will say it again. We must approach this effort to reform and improve the IRS with a great deal of care and thoughtfulness. I hope we will take our time to develop bipartisan solutions that serve the best interests of both taxpayers and the agency.
For many years, I have cautioned that we cannot get blood from a turnip. As you know, Congress cut the IRS budget by almost $1 billion since 2010. Over the last three years, the budget for the IRS Appeals Office dropped 11 percent, and there are about 24 percent fewer Hearing Officers.
Today, we will learn more about how these deep budget cuts have affected the ability of the agency to resolve disputes with taxpayers. Our constituents expect and deserve timely and efficient services. Simply said, Mr. Chairman, taxpayers will not get the level of service that they expect and deserve until we provide adequate funding to this agency.
As you know, this is the Subcommittee’s fourth hearing to explore how we can improve the IRS. We have remained bipartisan and explored a good governance path to examine how the IRS operates and to identify possible improvements. I hope and pray that our work product will be a model for our colleagues.
This afternoon, we will also explore how to improve what can be a long and complicated appeals process. Together, we will listen and learn about possible remedies. Some may suggest expanding the number of states that have permanent Hearing Officers, ensuring the independence of taxpayer conferences, and allowing taxpayers to request face-to-face conferences later in the process. As we have done all year, Mr. Chairman, I hope we will continue to work together in exploring and addressing these issues.
In closing, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses and learning more about their experiences with the agency. Again, thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding today’s hearing.