Turner: We Need More Answers from IRS
Congressman Mike Turner, a senior member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (OGR), submitted the following statement for the record as the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on “Organizations Targeted by Internal Revenue Service for Their Personal Beliefs.” In his statement, Turner criticizes the Internal Revenue Service after revelations exposed a failure of leadership when agents at the IRS began targeting organizations based their personal beliefs. In the statement, Turner also hopes that leadership from the targeted groups can help expose the tactics taken by the IRS.
Congressman Turner has introduced the Taxpayer Nondiscrimination & Protection Act of 2013. The bill would amend Title 18 of the U.S. code to make it a crime for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees to discriminate against individual or group based on the protected rights. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (FL) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
Statement for the Record
Mr. Chairman, Thank you for holding today’s hearing to further examine the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeting organizations for their personal beliefs. It is my hope that hearing directly from the leadership of these organizations will shed further light on the discriminatory tactics and actions taken by the IRS.
No matter which party controls the White House, taxpayers deserve to be treated fairly. As the facts surrounding this scandal continue to unfold, we are learning more about this conduct, who may have ordered it, and who may be held responsible. What we know now though, is that the IRS has failed to act in a fair, nonpartisan, and nondiscriminatory manner. In targeting an individual or group for audits and investigation on the basis of their beliefs – and not a legitimate tax-related purpose – the IRS has weakened its level of trust among both the American public and Congress.
In response to this undermining of trust, I have introduced H.R. 1950, the Taxpayer Nondiscrimination and Protection Act of 2013. With the support of nearly one-hundred of our colleagues in the House, and a companion measure introduced by Senator Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate, this bill is aimed at preventing this type of biased, politically-motivated discrimination, and seeks to strengthen taxpayer protections in current law by making this conduct a crime.
This bill would take the important step of increasing the maximum penalty for discrimination from mere termination to a criminal punishment. The criminal punishment would allow the federal government to impose a fine, up to five years imprisonment, or both - which is identical to the maximum imprisonment for a member of the President's cabinet who directs an employee to take that sort of action. Moreover, H.R. 1950 expressly states that political speech and political expression are rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Fairness is neither partisan, nor political; and H.R. 1950 seeks to restore those concepts of fairness to the federal government’s tax collectors, so that no individual or group is so wrongly discriminated against in the future. It is my hope that you will consider taking swift action on this measure and put the IRS on notice that this conduct simply cannot be tolerated.