Revenooer Rants: IRS code ‘junk,’ says ways and means chair
Ryan Summerlin January 29, 2014
Check out the latest video on the House Ways and Means Committee website for some face time by Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., who says he wants to get rid of all the “junk it contains” in a reference to the Internal Revenue Code.
Don’t you just love it!
Camp wants a “simpler and fairer” Code, which would be 25 percent smaller in girth than the present edition. In addition to simplicity and fairness, Camp wants a Code that is “more efficient” and one that makes it “more accountable to the taxpayer.”
Camp says there have been more than 4,400 changes to the Code in the last decade. “Our tax system is too complex, too confusing and too costly,” quoth the Chairman.
And while we’re on the subject, here comes the annual report to Congress by the National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson, which reiterates the Advocate’s longstanding recommendation that IRS adopt a Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
“If taxpayers believe they are treated, or can be treated, in an arbitrary and capricious manner, they will mistrust the tax system and be less likely to comply with the laws voluntarily. If taxpayers have confidence in the fairness and integrity of the system, they will be more likely to comply,” says Olson.
The report refers to a survey of U.S. taxpayers conducted for the Advocate which found less than half of respondents believe they have rights before IRS, and only 11 percent said they knew what those rights are. “The Internal Revenue Code provides dozens of real, substantive taxpayer rights,” says Olson’s report, “However, these rights are scattered throughout the Code and are not presented in a coherent way.”
Olson wants IRS to take the taxpayer rights that already exist and group them into ten broad categories modeled on the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, noting that the “simplicity and clarity” of this approach will help taxpayers get the big picture.
And, oh — by the way — the Advocate thinks the IRS needs more dough to enable it to promote better taxpayer “service,” and encourage better voluntary compliance. Consider:
• Last year, IRS could only answer 61 percent of calls from taxpayers seeking to speak with a customer service representative (We’re surprised to hear the percentage was that high!) representing a decline from 87 percent ten years earlier.
• Taxpayers who did get through had to wait on hold approximately 17.6 minutes before speaking with a representative.
• IRS historically has prepared tax returns for low income, elderly and disabled taxpayers seeking help. Ten years ago, it prepared about 476,000 returns. IRS recently announced it will no longer prepare returns at all.
We’ll see where all of this goes, especially as IRS also tackles its new Obamacare enforcement role.
CONSULT YOUR TAX ADVISER — This article contains general information about various tax matters. You should consult your CPA regarding the implications to your own particular situation. Jeff Quinn is a shareholder in Ashley Quinn, CPAs and Consultants, Ltd., with offices in Incline Village and Reno. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.