On heels of political targeting and ongoing release of taxpayer data, the nation’s tax collector is asking for a bigger role in Americans’ lives
February 4, 2022
(Washington, DC) – The Functional Government Initiative (FGI) is seeking a range of records from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and related agencies as the nation’s tax collector is requesting a significant expansion of taxing and enforcement authority through its budget and personnel. The full analysis and economic reasoning behind the agency’s recent proposals remain hidden from public view, and it is unclear whether it would yield the benefits claimed by senior officials.
The Tea Party scandal involving Lois Lerner shook Americans’ confidence in the powerful IRS, yet several years passed and a change of Administration came before the IRS would admit to wrongdoing. The two senior officials at the center of the scandal denied wrongdoing while also claiming that their deposition testimony would so anger the public that records should remain sealed. Unfortunately for taxpayers and transparency, these records have been kept from the public. This ongoing secrecy leaves many questions unanswered regarding what exactly occurred and whether agency practices that enabled the misconduct were ever truly addressed.
Last year’s unauthorized leak of sensitive financial information of wealthy American citizens to ProPublica again raised questions around the integrity and controls in place to prevent abuses at the Service. Similar to the Tea Party scandal, there appears to be little effort to identify those responsible for the leaks or implement new systems to prevent future abuses. Against this backdrop, the agency sought to dramatically expand its budget, personnel, and authority to peer into citizens’ bank accounts – encompassing accounts with as little as $600 in transactions per year. Though the proposal received strong pushback, transparency into its foundation – and even adjusted proposals that have set that target at $10,000 per year – has been minimal at best.
For years, the Internal Revenue Service has been one of the most powerful and mysterious agencies of the U.S. government. Unfortunately, the Tea Party targeting scandal confirmed what many Americans feared – the agency felt it was above the law. Then last year’s ProPublica leak of taxpayer data occurred – again without any apparent accountability by IRS employees – and it left the public even more skeptical about whether a core piece of its government was functioning properly. Combined with a legislative proposal to dramatically expand its power and budget, many Americans are right to be concerned about what’s going on behind the scenes. The Functional Government Initiative exists to do exactly this. We will report back what we find out.