I share the same outrage that many of you do about the IRS’s “Be On the Look Out” lists – or BOLOs, as they have recently been called by agency officials. These lists singled out conservative groups that were seeking tax-exempt status.
What’s even more unsettling is that while the IRS was putting Americans under unprecedented scrutiny, Lois Lerner – one of the IRS officials who oversaw the agency’s tax-exemption operations – received $42,000 in bonus money. Another $70 million in bonuses are expected to be doled out to IRS officials this year as well.
The BOLO lists and unchecked spending serve as an example of how lopsided the relationship between the IRS and American people has become. As Nina Olson – a national taxpayer advocate – said recently, tax-exempt applicants weren’t even “empowered to know that the IRS was violating their rights.”
Similarly, taxpayers are limited in challenging the IRS. For example, because of the Anti-Injunction Act of the Tax Code, IRS collection employees don’t need a court order to seize your assets, meaning that in most cases no pathway through the court system exists for taxpayers to prevent the IRS from acquiring their possessions.
Our Founding Fathers put in place a Bill of Rights to stop the federal government from infringing on our activities as U.S. citizens. Now more than ever before, I believe we need a Taxpayer Bill of Rights that bars the IRS and other federal entities from infringing on our rights as American taxpayers.
Such a document would include a Balanced Budget Amendment as well as measures that put enforceable limits on the IRS and tax collection officials and apply strict restraints on federal spending.
Additionally, I believe taxpayers are entitled to a modernized tax code. The tax code under which we operate today was put in place in 1986 – before the Berlin Wall fell, before email transformed the way we do business, and even before credit and debit cards all but replaced cash and checks. Over the course of the last quarter century, exceptions and rules have been piled on the tax code, making it overly complex, laden with loopholes and more subjective to the interpretation of IRS tax collectors. It’s time for an update.
I remain extremely supportive of my colleagues who continue to work diligently to improve our tax code in light of these difficult circumstances. And I will continue to serve as an advocate for a Taxpayer Bill of Rights that restrains federal spending, empowers Americans against the IRS, and simplifies and modernizes our tax code.
Thanks to all of those who reached out to my office on this issue. I really appreciate your comments, recommendations and feedback.
Member of Congress