U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the Democrats’ desire to double the size of the Internal Revenue Servicein order to pay for their reckless tax-and-spending spree. Thune noted that the agency’s poor reputation and mismanagement of taxpayer dollars would further jeopardize the privacy of South Dakotans’ personal information.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, the one thing you can say for Democrats’ so-called Build Back Better plan is that it provides a never-ending supply of bad proposals to talk about.
“And the bad Build Back Better measure I want to discuss today is Democrats’ plan to double the size of the IRS.
“Double the size of the IRS.
“Mr. President, the IRS is not exactly the most popular government agency.
“And with good reason.
“The agency has gained for itself a reputation for poor taxpayer service and, most seriously, for mishandling the confidential taxpayer information it has access to.
“In fact, the IRS was subject to a massive leak or hack of private taxpayer information mere months ago – information that somehow ended up in the hands of advocates at ProPublica.
“And neither Treasury nor the IRS has provided meaningful follow-up about the data breach, much less any accountability.
“For months, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee have pressed the administration for details about the breach of private taxpayer information.
“I would have hoped that my friends on the other side of the aisle would have shown similar concern for taxpayers’ privacy.
“And who could forget the IRS scandal during the Obama administration, when the IRS targeted a number of organizations based on their political beliefs.
“Mr. President, those are two notorious examples of IRS misconduct.
“But there are plenty of others.
“The Treasury inspector general for tax administration has repeatedly found instances of IRS agents violating taxpayer rights.
“And then there’s the agency’s record of irresponsibility or incompetence – or both.
“Losing track of laptops that may have contained sensitive taxpayer information.
“Rehiring employees who had been fired for bad behavior.
“Work delays due to a lack of simple printer maintenance.
“Hanging up on taxpayers who call the IRS for information.
“Customer service departments in general can be frustrating, but at least at many companies you can reach an actual person in a fairly reasonable amount of time.
“If you call the IRS you have a one in 50 chance of reaching a human being.
“One in 50.
“Mr. President, I could go on.
“Suffice it to say, there are good reasons why Americans tend not to be big fans of the IRS.
“And why they think this agency already has too much power.
“But Democrats would like to double the size of this agency.
“Democrats’ bill would add 87,000 new IRS employees.
“That’s enough employees to fill an entire football stadium – with some left over.
“87,000 is more than the population of Rapid City, South Dakota – the second-largest city in my state.
“The Congressional Budget Office estimates that increasing the size of the agency in this way would result in significantly higher audit rates of American taxpayers.
“Many of those audits would hit middle-income Americans and small businesses – in other words, individuals without easy access to an army of accountants to help them navigate the process and ensure that their rights are protected.
“Mr. President, Democrats’ primary reason for this IRS expansion is to raise revenue to help pay for their partisan tax-and-spending spree.
“They claim that hiring all these new IRS agents and employees will allow them to close or reduce the tax gap – the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid.
“But there are a couple of problems with that.
“In the first place, it’s extremely doubtful that they will be able to raise the money they claim they’ll be able to raise.
“In fact, the Congressional Budget Office doesn’t even score hoped-for revenue from enforcement since it considers the acquisition of that revenue to be so uncertain.
“And even if Democrats are able to raise a meaningful sum from increased enforcement, what exactly is it going to cost Americans for Democrats to recapture this money?
“Increased scrutiny – and costly audits – of law-abiding taxpayers?
“IRS intimidation and harassment?
“And just in case anyone thinks I’m exaggerating about that intimidation, I would note that a provision in the House version of Democrats’ reckless tax-and-spending spree would repeal a measure requiring written approval of a supervisor before an IRS agent can assess any penalties.
“The provision was intended to prevent overreaching IRS agents from threatening Americans with unjustified penalties.
“And it’s hard to imagine why Democrats are trying to repeal this measure if they’re not trying to pave the way for much more aggressive IRS pressure and enforcement.
“And I haven’t even mentioned the provision that was in Democrats’ proposal for a long time and which some Democrats – including the president’s treasury secretary and other administration officials – would still like to see included: a provision that would empower the IRS to snoop on the details of Americans’ bank accounts.
“Under one version of this provision, the IRS would be able to sift through the bank records of any American with just $600 in annual transactions.
“In other words, the IRS would be able to look through the bank records of just about every American and find out just how much you spent on Starbucks or your last doctor’s bill or that new winter coat.
“It’s staggering that Democrats could even contemplate giving that much power to an agency that has a track record of mishandling sensitive taxpayer information.
“But that’s the kind of power the president’s treasury secretary, for one, would like this agency to have.
“Mr. President, with their so-called Build Back Better plan, Democrats are proposing a massive expansion of government.
“And we’re apparently just supposed to take it on faith that the government will be able to handle all these new responsibilities.
“Well, I – and many other Americans – have my doubts.
“And the IRS provides a perfect example of why.
“The IRS can’t even properly handle the staff and responsibilities it already has.
“And yet Democrats think it’s a good idea to double the size of this agency and give it new enforcement powers – and, if some have their way, expanded access to Americans’ personal information.
“Mr. President, doubling the size of the IRS is a terrible idea.
“And it’s one more reason why ‘Build Back Better’ is a bad deal for the American people.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”