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Protecting Your Hard-Earned Money

By Sen. John Thune

March 25, 2022

Tax Day 2022 is knocking on the door. If you asked the South Dakotans who are diligently prepping their tax returns, I doubt the IRS is viewed favorably by few, if any of them. In fact, not that people sit at home and rank their favorite federal agencies, but if they did, my guess is that the tax-enforcing agency, which often looms large over the American people, would rank near the bottom. It has unfortunately gained a reputation for its overzealous authority and poor customer service – the inability to simply answer phone calls, for example – and last tax filing season was particularly miserable for taxpayers.

In addition to bad customer service, serious concerns have been raised about the agency’s inability to properly handle confidential taxpayer information. In fact, as recently as last year, the IRS faced a massive leak or hack of private taxpayer information – information that somehow ended up in the hands of ProPublica, an outfit that promotes progressive causes, which last June went on to publish taxpayers’ private information. Now, nearly one year later, neither the Treasury Department nor the IRS have provided any meaningful follow-up about the apparent data breach, nor has anyone been held accountable for this major breach of trust.

Rather than prioritizing accountability and efficiency, Democrats instead focused on massively expanding the IRS – both in the number of agents and the agency’s reach into private citizens’ lives. They wanted to require banks, credit unions, and other financial service providers to report to the IRS when a business or customer made total deposits or withdrawals that exceeded a certain amount – $600 if the president had his way. Essentially, anyone who has a job or has saved a bit of money could have been subject to a Washington bureaucrat snooping through his or her checking account. Clearly, these partisan proposals had little to do with improving taxpayer services or increasing agency accountability. Democrats’ main interest in handing the IRS a supersized budget increase – proposing to nearly double the agency’s size – was to help pay for their partisan tax-and-spending spree.

Fortunately, the Democrats’ partisan crusade has stalled – hopefully permanently. Any resources going to the IRS must be paired with serious reform, including measures to improve customer service, ensure that existing resources are being used efficiently, and promote smarter and more effective audits. I am a cosponsor of a bill, the Tax Gap Reform and IRS Enforcement Act, which would codify additional protections for taxpayers against IRS overreach. This legislation would help ensure that the IRS is not able to target taxpayers for their political and ideological beliefs, and it would prohibit the kind of bank reporting requirements that Democrats sought to impose in their “Build Back Better” spending spree. It would also take steps to improve taxpayer services, increase IRS expertise, and better develop the information we have on the tax gap – the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid.

South Dakota taxpayers hired me to be a good steward of their hard-earned money, and I am doing everything in my power to protect every single dollar that is sent to Washington. I hope we’ll be able to move away from Democrats’ intrusive and reckless Build Back Better proposals and toward bipartisan efforts to reform the IRS and ensure that taxpayers can reliably depend on the agency.