Senate Passes Bill to Overhaul Internal Revenue Service
Godfrey, John, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The Senate yesterday unanimously approved legislation that would dramatically restructure the Internal Revenue Service and strengthen taxpayers' arsenals against the nation's tax collection agency.
"It has been critically important to me that we reform the IRS in a comprehensive manner, and fully address the serious problems that have been brought before the Finance Committee," said Committee Chairman William V. Roth Jr., Delaware Republican.
The vast majority of the IRS' 102,000 employees are honest and hard-working, Mr. Roth said, but the "problem is that the agency itself has too much power and not enough sunshine."
Senate hearings last week focused on abuses of power and police tactics by rogue IRS agents.
Much of the debate before passage yesterday focused on the composition of a control board to be created by the bill.
The nine-member board would include the IRS commissioner, the Treasury secretary, and an IRS employee-representative. The six remaining experts would be nominated for two-year terms by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The House passed a less expansive version of the bill in November.
Democrats criticized Republicans for not passing the reform immediately in the Senate. Sen. Bob Kerrey, Nebraska Democrat, said millions of taxpayers were doing without needed relief so that the GOP could claim IRS reform for the 1998 elections. But Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said, "Others were prepared to rush to judgment, but [Mr. Roth] persisted . . . and we have a better bill."
Several failed amendments would have stripped from the board, or curtailed the power of, the employee-representative and the Treasury secretary.
"You cannot serve two masters," said Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican, arguing for his amendment to require the IRS employee-representative to meet federal conflict-of-interest laws. …