Tax day is tomorrow and it’s the time of year when many Americans have to turn their thoughts yet again to the Internal Revenue Service. It’s an agency which traditionally manages national approval ratings which are slightly higher than the more serious sexually transmitted diseases to begin with, but in recent years they’ve been making all the wrong sorts of headlines. This makes it the ideal time for Congress to consider some new legislation to provide a bit more accountability and transparency to the agency and that’s precisely what they’re doing. A group of new bills has been introduced to establish some rules of the road for the IRS and they’re not at all happy about it. (Government Executive)

In the run-up to what one lawmaker called “the most unpopular week of the year,” the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday approved a batch of bills designed to make the Internal Revenue Service more “accountable.”

The four bills before tax week would crack down on executive bonuses, tax agency employees who are behind on their own tax payments and agency rehiring of former employees with misconduct issues, while also constraining the IRS in how it uses revenue from taxpayer fees.

Most Democrats opposed the measures, which cleared the panel by voice vote. “We didn’t see these bills until Friday,” said Ranking Member Sander Levin, D-Mich., characterizing them as an “effort to cripple the IRS.”

There are some good nuggets in this collection which deserve a look. (And a vote, while we’re on the subject.) The first one is H.R. 4890, the IRS Bonuses Tied to Measurable Metrics Act. If passed, it would freeze all bonuses paid to IRS executives until they implement a measurable customer service strategy to improve the experience most taxpayers have. I suppose the big news in this one is that anyone at the IRS was still getting bonuses, given their performance of late.

The second one which will probably gain a lot of public support is the No Hires for the Delinquent IRS Act (H.R. 1206). As the name implies, the bill would prevent the hiring (and possibly retention) of IRS employees who work to make sure everyone else pays their taxes while being delinquent on their own. From a cold, logical perspective, you can understand at least one argument against this one. Many people wind up falling behind on their taxes but taking away their job just makes them all the less likely to be able to pay the money back. It’s also not an automatic disqualifier for jobs in most other industries. But at the same time… you work at the IRS. Come on, man.

There are a few other bills in the package which you can read about at the link. They deal with things such as stopping the agency from rehiring people who were terminated for cause and clamping down on how the IRS spends the money it collects in fees from taxpayers. I don’t think the tax man is going to find a lot of sympathy in the public square on these matters. But that won’t stop the Democrats from opposing the measures! Their objections were summed up by Thomas Burger, executive director of the Professional Managers Association.

“Banning bonuses across-the board for employees until the Secretary of the Treasury develops and implements a customer service strategy would unfairly penalize dedicated employees who tirelessly work provide American taxpayers with the best possible services despite inadequate resources,” he said. “Sound-bite legislation that only serves as campaign talking points will not improve services at the IRS. Congress should focus on properly funding the IRS so that employees have the tools and resources to successfully fulfill its mission and best serve taxpayers.”

That’s right. The argument is that the solution to the woes of the IRS is to… give them more money. The March Hare should be along any moment now to comment.

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