Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., on September 3 announced their intention to introduce legislation following Congress’s return to session on September 9 requiring the federal government to notify taxpayers whenever the IRS has accessed their tax returns or other information. “The IRS violated the First Amendment rights of the American people when it created what amounted to an enemies list of conservatives, including Tennessee Tea Party groups, to keep people quiet,” stated Alexander when announcing the measure.
The IRS Abuse Protection Bill would require the Treasury Secretary to notify taxpayers, in writing, each time the IRS accesses their tax accounts, tax returns or other tax return information. The notice must include who accessed the information, the purpose of doing so and how the information was accessed. Taxpayers would also receive a copy of the information accessed and any report issued on how it was used. “This legislation will give taxpayers the protection they need to make sure the IRS isn’t using their information in a way that violates their First Amendment rights to speak up and speak out, for political reasons or otherwise,” said Alexander.
Fincher also said the IRS actions have been “a blatant violation of the First Amendment” and he is “committed to making sure the IRS is never again used as a political weapon against any group, conservative or liberal.” Alexander and 45 U.S. senators previously called on the Obama administration to comply with all requests by Congress as it examines the IRS’s admitted targeting of conservative groups and others during the 2012 election. According to Alexander, the Obama administration’s behavior resembled the Nixon administration’s creation of an enemies list, which became public as part of the Watergate scandal. He cited administration statements treating businesses, the media and members of Congress like enemies, saying Obama should “push the street brawling out of the White House.”
Fincher had previously introduced the IRS Employee Responsibility Bill of 2013, which would require IRS employees to be solely responsibility for their actions, as are civilian employees when taken to civil court. Under the bill, IRS employees are responsible for their own legal fees and any judgment awards against them as opposed to current law where the federal government covers all legal fees and expenses.
By Jeff Carlson, CCH News Staff
Sep. 5, 2013