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Thune: We Must Hold the IRS Accountable and Protect Taxpayer Dollars

“Since Democrats are flooding the IRS with a lot of additional money, Americans deserve to know that that money is being spent wisely and efficiently – and that it isn’t going to make taxpayers’ experiences with the IRS even worse.”

November 30, 2022

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Taxation and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Oversight, today discussed how the Democrats’ attempt to supersize the IRS without holding the agency accountable to American taxpayers is dangerous and irresponsible. Thune also spoke about a series of bills he has introduced that would protect taxpayers and improve the IRS through increased transparency, oversight, and accountability.

Thune previously introduced a bill that would protect taxpayers who are earning less than $400,000 from increased audits, as well as a separate bill, the Increase Reliable Services Now Act, that would prevent the IRS from hiring new enforcement employees until customer service has reached a more acceptable standard. Most recently, Thune introduced the IRS Funding Accountability Act, legislation that would give Congress a direct say in how the unprecedented $80 billion in new funding for the IRS could be spent.

Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, ask any group of Americans how they feel about the IRS, and you’re unlikely to come up with a lot of positive reviews.


“And with good reason.


“Repeated mishandling of taxpayer data – not to mention almost nonexistent customer service – is unlikely to gain any agency many fans.


“And at this point, the IRS has a disturbing record of mishandling taxpayer information.


“In the past two years alone, the IRS has inadvertently posted confidential information from 120,000 taxpayers on its website, destroyed 30 million unprocessed tax documents, and had troves of private taxpayer information end up in the hands of the left-leaning news site ProPublica.


“And the agency’s customer service record might be even worse.


“During fiscal year 2021, the agency answered just 11 percent of the 282 million calls it received.


“11 percent. 


“That means that 250 million taxpayer calls went unanswered.


“250 million.


“And 2022 was no better.


“During the 2022 filing season, 90 percent of taxpayers’ calls – 90 percent – went unanswered.


“Any business with a customer service record like that would soon be out of business.


“Mr. President, given the agency’s record, I think most Americans would say that the IRS is ripe for reform.


“Democrats, however, apparently thought the IRS was ripe for more funding.


“A lot more funding.


“In August Democrats passed their so-called Inflation Reduction Act.


“This legislation takes no meaningful steps to reduce inflation, but it does flood the IRS with a staggering $80 billion over the next 10 years, a sum equal to six times the agency’s 2022 budget.


“That’s enough money to double the size of the IRS.


“The bill provides for the hiring of as many as 87,000 new IRS employees – an estimate that came from President Biden’s Treasury Department.


“That would make the IRS larger than Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard combined.


“Mr. President, suddenly and dramatically increasing the size of any government agency is cause for concern.


“Are there plans in place to make sure the money is used efficiently?


“Can the agency in question handle such a swift expansion – and the increased responsibility that comes with it?


“These are serious questions no matter what agency we’re talking about.


“But these questions are particularly relevant when the agency in question is already doing a poor job of handling its basic responsibilities.


“And yet despite the IRS’ record – despite the repeated breaches of taxpayer confidentiality and the nearly nonexistent customer service – Democrats passed legislation to double the size of the agency without including any meaningful accountability measures to ensure that the new funding is used responsibly.


“I guess it’s not terribly surprising given that Democrats made it clear that their main interest in supersizing the IRS was increasing government revenue.


“But it is deeply troubling.


“We should not be doubling the size of an agency that is already notable for its failure to adequately carry out its mission.


“But since Democrats are flooding the IRS with a lot of additional money, Americans deserve to know that that money is being spent wisely and efficiently – and that it isn’t going to make taxpayers’ experiences with the IRS even worse.


“That’s why I – and my fellow Republicans – have been focused on doing everything we can to provide rigorous oversight and accountability for this new money.


“And I’ve introduced multiple bills to help protect taxpayers.


“My Increase Reliable Services Now Act, which I introduced with Senator Collins, would prevent the IRS from hiring new enforcement agents until customer service at the IRS has reached a more acceptable standard.


“I also worked with Senator Mike Crapo on a bill to protect taxpayers earning less than $400,000 per year from increased audits.


“Democrats’ main reason for boosting IRS funding was to increase tax collection measures, including audits, to squeeze out revenue for their Green New Deal agenda.


“And there is substantial reason to be concerned that despite Democrats’ protests to the contrary, some of that audit funding will be used to increase audits of middle-income taxpayers.


“It’s hard to explain why else every Democrat opposed an amendment to prevent the IRS from using its new funding to increase audits of these Americans.


“The bill I introduced with Senator Crapo and my Republican colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee would protect middle-income Americans from seeing increased audits as a result of this new money.


“Most recently – just a few days before Thanksgiving – Senator Chuck Grassley and I led our fellow Finance Committee Republicans in introducing the IRS Funding Accountability Act.


“Our legislation would require the IRS to provide Congress with an annual plan for how the agency intends to use its new funding – a plan that could be rejected by Congress with a joint resolution of disapproval.


“And the IRS would be required to provide Congress with quarterly updates on implementation of its spending plans.


“This would enable consistent and transparent oversight, provide accountability for any misuse of funds, and guard against violations of taxpayer rights.


“And there would be real consequences for failing to submit plans or reports on time – including the rescission of funds until the IRS complies with reporting requirements.


“Mr. President, the mission statement of the IRS is to ‘provide America’s taxpayers top-quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all.’


“Unfortunately, in recent years the IRS has fallen far short of this standard.


“And flooding the agency with $80 billion over and above its current budget – the majority of it for increased enforcement, with no accountability or oversight measures – is unlikely to do much to ensure taxpayers receive ‘top-quality service.’


“I hope at least some of my Democrat colleagues will decide to join Republicans to enact measures that will provide real accountability at the IRS, which is needed now more than ever.


“American taxpayers deserve nothing less.”