Sen. Portman Bill Deserves Tea Party Support

Today in America, we can’t even go a day without hearing a story about the IRS abusing its power and unjustly harassing American taxpayers. Perhaps the most famous case in recent memory is the IRS’s targeted campaign against Tea Party members. The IRS’s unjust and discriminatory actions led Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to write successful pieces of legislation that curtailed the agency’s power, all of which were signed into law by President Obama.

In a further attempt to rein in the IRS’s misuse and misappropriation of power, Sen. Portman has again stepped up to the plate and introduced a new bill, S.2809. This new bill seeks to constrain the agency's aggressive litigation tactics and prevent the outsourcing of audits to private law firms. This is good news, because the IRS has been known to outsource audits to liberal law firms for both political and financial gain.

The agency's audit of Microsoft is the greatest evidence of the need to pass Portman's new bill. Microsoft’s audit began nearly a decade ago and has still not been closed out. Year after year, the IRS has dragged Microsoft through one investigation after another in a desperate attempt to find the elusive smoking gun. Their never-ending request for Microsoft computer files and employee interviews has not been successful, and yet the IRS refuses to close the audit. They have also denied Microsoft’s request to have a hearing before the impartial and independent IRS Appeals Office. Microsoft has even politely asked that the IRS simply give them a dollar amount that they think is owed to the government so that the company can move on with its business. 

Rather than working with Microsoft to find a resolution to the audit process, the IRS made the unlawful decision to bring in two private law firms to continue the audit investigation. The first is Quinn Emanuel, a liberal-leaning law firm that does not even list tax law as one of its 33 areas of practice. The other is David Boies’ law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner. David Boies’ name may sound familiar -- he was the Department of Justice lawyer assigned to break up Microsoft under the Clinton Administration.

Through the use of  private law firms, the IRS is able to illegally sidestep many of the laws and principles our government was founded upon. Quinn Emanuel and Boies, Schiller & Flexner have been authorized to conduct examinations and take sworn testimony, and yet federal law states that only the Treasury Secretary and his limited delegates may perform such activities. As Senator Hatch stated:

"Unlike private contractors, Treasury Department officials are required to swear an oath to the Constitution and are subject to rules of conduct and federal law regulating their interactions with taxpayers.”

This action sets a dangerous precedent. By outsourcing their authority, the IRS is able to conduct investigations beyond the limits of the law and without any requirements for accountability.

Sen. Portman’s bill will place restrictions on the various tactics that the IRS employs in order to keep an audit going on infinitude. Taxpayers will now have a path to resolution that does not include going to court. Portman's bill will also put an end to the IRS’s ability to hire private law firms, all while ensuring that taxpayers have the right to an appeal with access to the independent IRS appeals office.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was correct when he stated that "Taxpayers need to be confident that they will be treated fairly, no matter what their background or affiliations." The Republican-controlled Congress should make the commissioner's vision a reality and pass the Portman Bill immediately. The American taxpayers are counting on the body to do so. 

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