WASHINGTON -- Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE)
Thursday unveiled his IRS reform legislation, calling it, "the most
comprehensive overhaul ever" of the agency. Roth thanked all of the
taxpayers and IRS employees who had spoken before the Finance Committee
and contacted him, calling them, "the driving force," behind
Roth's statement from a press conference in the Senate Finance Committee
hearing room follows:
"Last fall, as many of you remember, the Senate Finance Committee
held three days of hearings that revealed widespread problems at the Internal
Revenue Service. When we began those hearings, Washington was skeptical.
No one believed that the types of abuses that our hearings exposed really
went on. The IRS called the cases anomalies.
"Outside the beltway, though, our hearings touched a nerve.
My office alone heard from thousands of Americans who said that they had
been mistreated at the hands of the IRS.
"Last fall, I told the witnesses at our hearings and all Americans
who were watching, that I wanted those hearings to begin a process that
led to necessary and lasting change to protect the taxpayer and create
a better work environment for IRS employees.
"Two of those witnesses are here today. Shelley Davis, who gave
us a former insider's view of the IRS, and Beth Cockrell, who spoke so
eloquently about the plight of innocent spouses. I want to thank them,
as well as Katherine Lund Hicks, Tom Savage, Monsignor Ballweg, Nancy Jacobs,
Jennifer Long, Darren Larsen, Lawrence Lilly, David Patnoe, Bruce Strauss,
Bob Shriebman, David Burnham, Svetlana Pejanovic, Josephine Berman, Karen
Andreasson and our unnamed witnesses. It is their testimony that became
the driving force behind reforming the IRS.
"Today, after months of work, I am here to unveil a plan that
I believe will change the way the IRS does business. My IRS reform bill
is the most comprehensive overhaul of the Internal Revenue Service ever
put forward. It uses the House passed bill as a foundation, and incorporates
many good suggestions from Democrats and Republicans as well as the Administration.
"It will open the door to real restructuring and reform of an
agency that for far too long has been allowed to operate in darkness. It
is aimed at protecting both taxpayers and employees against those inside
the agency who have abused the awesome power of the IRS.
"It is built on three principles:
- Increasing oversight of the agency to prevent abuses;
- Holding IRS employees accountable for their actions and rewarding employees who treat the taxpayer fairly;
- Ensuring that taxpayers are treated with fairness by creating a whole new arsenal of taxpayer protections.
"Among the major reforms my legislation will make are:
- Giving the board oversight over law enforcement and collection activities with limited 6103 authority to carry out that responsibility;
- Pulling most of the inspections division out of the IRS and putting them under the supervision of the Treasury I.G. to ensure its independence;
- Making the Taxpayer Advocates office independent of the Agency to ensure that they represent the interest of the taxpayer;
- Giving the Commissioner the statutory authority he needs to restructure the agency;
- Holding IRS employees accountable for their actions by requiring the IRS to terminate employees who commit perjury, falsify documents, or violate the rules to retaliate against a taxpayer;
- Ensuring that innocent spouses are responsible only for their own tax liability;
- Suspending interest and certain penalties when the IRS does not provide appropriate notice to a taxpayer within one year after a return is filed;
- Making the offers in compromise program more fair to taxpayers;
- Ensuring due process in collections activities.
"Some have been critical of the amount of time it has taken
to work on this bill. From the beginning, I made it very clear that I would
not introduce a bill until I was satisfied that it would make effective
and lasting reform to this agency. This process has required hundreds of
decisions, scores of revenue estimates, and months of work -- and is well
worth the wait.
"I want to make it clear that our oversight will continue, as
will our efforts to make corrective changes as we monitor the agency in
the months and years ahead.
"The Committee is serious about reform -- serious about turning
the IRS into an agency that has power sufficient enough to collect the
appropriate amount of federal revenues, but whose institutional culture
is marked by service, efficiency, cooperation, and openness -- a culture
where taxpayers and employees alike are protected from abuse, retaliation,
and the kinds of nightmares we've disclosed these past months.
"For anyone who thought that Congress was not serious about reforms,
and that we would turn our backs when the TV lights went out, I have some
news for you: I mean business.
"For the thousands of taxpayers and employees across the country
who have contacted my office in the past year, I thank you -- I laud your
courage -- and let this bill be a demonstration that you have been heard.
Congress is responding, and this bill is for you.