Ending the politicization of the IRS: A new House report recommends nixing the tax agency commissioner’s job

More than a year after the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups became public knowledge, a key House committee has made a long list of recommendations to end the politicization of the powerful federal tax agency.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report, Making Sure Targeting Never Happens: Getting Politics Out of the IRS and Other Solutions, on Tuesday that outlines 15 proposals to reform the IRS, protect Americans’ free speech and privacy rights, and much more.

“As the Committee continues its comprehensive investigation into IRS targeting of Americans for their political beliefs, both immediate and long-term reforms are needed to prevent such targeting from ever happening again,” Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said in a press release. “We must make structural changes to improve internal oversight and get politics out of the IRS. The current imbalance of IRS power over taxpayers must cede to a system that recognizes and protects the rights of taxpayers.”

The Committee proposes that the IRS commissioner post, currently held by John Koskinen, be replaced with a multi-member, bipartisan commission, which, the report says, would bring much-needed checks and balances to the agency. The IRS commissioner is currently appointed by the president and subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Specific to the agency’s targeting of conservative organizations, the report recommends that the IRS no longer have the authority to regulate political speech for social welfare nonprofits. Contrary to misconceptions advanced by campaign finance supporters, the Committee explains that 501(c)(4) designated organizations engage are prohibited from engaging in political speech.

Instead, these groups exist to promote or oppose certain policies and educate the public on the benefits or dangers of them through available avenues, including television and radio ads. That is the very definition of social welfare.

Though the report doesn’t make a recommendation as to which federal agency would ensure that nonprofits are complying with the law, other Republicans, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), have suggested that the Federal Election Committee assume this role.

The Committee also proposes to remove the IRS from the implementation and administration of Obamacare. The report explains that the tax agency has become politicized due to its close working relationship with “political elements” in the Obama administration.

“To return the IRS to its traditional role as an impartial administrator of the tax code,” the report says, “Congress ought to consider legislation to remove the IRS from the implementation and administration of the Affordable Care Act.”

Other recommendations include allowing taxpayers to control access to their personal records, allowing Americans to seek relief from leaks of their information, and limitations on the time the IRS has to review applications for tax-exempt status.

Democrats on the Committee, of course, are opposed to any substantive reforms at the IRS. Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD), instead, took shots at Issa rather than discuss the proposals.

“Chairman Issa has been criticizing over-politicized boards for years, including at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Chemical Safety Board,” he told The Hill, “but now he wants to establish one at the IRS.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is currently, as you’re reading this, holding a hearing on the proposals in the report.

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