To celebrate Tax Day on Wednesday, House Republicans have prepared a raft of proposals aimed at changing both the way U.S. citizens are taxed and the way the Internal Revenue Service enforces the tax code.
The proposals run the gamut from reasonable tweaks to the vast U.S. tax code to huge symbolic gestures that will likely not survive the journey from the House to the Senate. Some of the bills are inspired by real-world events, including the revelation that the IRS targeted conservative-leaning groups for special scrutiny prior to the 2012 election and subsequently lost the emails of senior officials involved in that decision.
The motives behind others, such as a move to change the tax treatment of gifts given to professional football leagues, are harder to understand.
The headline item is the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015, which is sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), and would do away with the estate tax — an end Republicans have been pursuing for more than a decade. The tax currently applies to 0.2 percent of all estates in the country, but the GOP has consistently characterized it as a measure that routinely destroys small businesses and family farms. The law already exempts the first $5.4 million of an estate from taxation, with even bigger breaks for married couples.
Even in the unlikely event that the bill survives Democratic attacks in the Senate, the possibility that President Obama would sign it — considering that he is interested in raising the current estate tax rate and reducing the exemption — approaches zero.
Other proposals likely to see a vote on the House floor today or later this week include:
The Taxpayer Bill of Rights Act of 2015 – Sponsored by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), the bill is a largely symbolic measure meant to require the IRS to make sure that its employees are “familiar with and act in accordance with taxpayer rights, including the right to be informed, to be assisted, to be heard, to pay no more than the correct amount of tax, to an appeal, to certainty, to privacy, to confidentiality, to representation, and to a fair and just tax system.”
Fair Treatment for All Gifts Act – Also sponsored by Roskam, the bill would lighten the tax treatment of certain gifts, including those made to social welfare organizations, business groups and, it specifies, “professional football leagues.”
IRS Email Transparency Act – Sponsored by Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX) the bill is an apparent reaction to the IRS targeting scandal, in which a senior IRS official’s email records were lost due to a computer crash. It would bar any IRS employee from using a personal email account for official business.
Taxpayer Knowledge of IRS Investigations Act – Sponsored by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), the bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow the Secretary of Treasury to release information about whether reports of misconduct by IRS officials have triggered an investigation, the status of the investigation and whether disciplinary or legal action has been taken as a result.
Ensuring Tax Exempt Organizations the Right to Appeal Act – Sponsored by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), this measure would allow organizations to appeal findings by the IRS that they do not qualify for tax exempt status.
IRS Bureaucracy Reduction and Judicial Review Act – Sponsored by Rep. George Holding (R-NC), the measure would amend the Internal Revenue Code so that social welfare organizations that plan to operate as tax-exempt entities have 60 days to notify the IRS of their intent, and are allowed to request a declaratory judgment from the agency about its classification as tax-exempt.
Prevent Targeting at the IRS Act – Sponsored by Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH), the bill is another reaction to the targeting scandal. It would change the law to make it easier to fire IRS employees found “performing, delaying, or failing to perform (or threatening to perform, delay, or fail to perform) any official action (including any audit) with respect to a taxpayer for purpose of extracting personal gain or benefit or for a political purpose.”
Contracting and Tax Accountability Act of 2015 – Sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the bill would bar individuals with a “seriously delinquent tax debt” from bidding on federal contracts.
Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act of 2015 – Also sponsored by Chaffetz, the measure would bar people with “seriously delinquent tax debt” from working for the federal government.
State and Local Sales Tax Deduction Fairness Act of 2015 – Sponsored by Rep. Brady of Texas, the bill would permanently allow taxpayers the option to deduct state and local sales taxes on their federal filings just like they can do with state and local income taxes.
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