Recent Op-Eds

Oh, the IRS. Everyone’s least favorite federal government agency, bulging at the seams with D.C. bureaucrats. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good people working in federal government agencies throughout Washington, but the IRS is laden with tax collectors whose sole mission is to collect your hard-earned money to line the federal coffers, which doesn’t make anyone other than the tax collectors very happy.

For most Americans, though, it’s not necessarily paying their share that frustrates them, it’s that their share seems to grow each year and with diminishing returns. They feel like their money is being squandered and not spent as efficiently or effectively as possible. So, with tax season upon us, I thought it was a good opportunity to take a step back and try to put into perspective the burden the IRS places on American taxpayers each year and examine what we can or should do about it.

Six billion. That’s how many hours taxpayers spend each year trying to comply with Internal Revenue Code requirements, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate. Six billion, with a “b.” After some helpful math, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) determined that comes out to nearly 700,000 years or the equivalent of more than 150 million 40-hour workweeks. This is collective time spent each and every year for tax compliance. 

Imagine the productivity that’s lost for American small business owners who constantly try to navigate the complexities of the tax code to ensure his or her business stays compliant. Or how about all of the headaches caused and time and money spent by families filling out tax returns every spring? According to the NTUF, compliance with the federal income tax cost the U.S. economy more than $200 billion in productivity just last year alone.

One of the first things we can do is probably the most obvious. The federal government could tighten its belt and spend less money, just like every family across the country must do from time to time. And it’s not only spending less that’s so important, but it’s spending more effectively that could make the most difference. Why in the world should the government be spending $1 million for monkeys running in hamster balls on a treadmill or $780,000 so the government can study college students and pizza addiction. 

Another thing we could do is hold the tax collectors more accountable, which I’ve made a strong effort to do. In my opinion, it’s impossible to have too much accountability, especially when it comes to the IRS. So, last year, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and I introduced important legislation, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights Enhancement Act, that would create greater accountability for IRS bureaucrats and more protections for American taxpayers.

A number of provisions of our bill have already been enacted into law, such as requiring termination of any IRS employee taking official action for political purposes, prohibiting IRS employees from using personal email to conduct official business, and requiring the IRS to provide additional information to taxpayers whose rights have been violated by IRS employees. The other provisions of our bill, which I expect the Senate Finance Committee will soon consider, takes important steps toward restoring the IRS to an agency the American people expect and deserve. On top of that, in the coming years, Congress must work toward comprehensive tax reform, which would alleviate a large portion of the heavy tax burden.

While there’s not much to celebrate during tax season, there’s always a silver lining: you have 12 months until tax season arrives again. Until then, my promise to you is that I will continue to treat every dollar in Washington with the respect a hard-earned dollar deserves and guard it as if it was one of my own (and if you asked my wife Kimberley, you’d know how safe it is!).    

NOTE: Click here for more information on Sen. Thune’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights Enhancement Act.