Today, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chuck Grassley (R- IA), Dean Heller (R-NV) Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Accountability Act of 2015. This legislation will keep IRS bureaucrats accountable to the American people by giving the IRS Commissioner new authority to fire senior executives who have failed in their performance or committed misconduct. This legislation is based on a law Congress passed last year in the wake of the VA health care scandal that enables the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to fire senior executives for misconduct.
Currently, the IRS Commissioner does have the authority to fire high ranking employees for certain forms of misconduct, but has not yet used this authority against those who engaged in political targeting of taxpayers. The Administration has claimed that only mismanagement occurred at the IRS and that mismanagement is not a crime and has used this logic to justify its failure to act in the case of Lois Lerner and others who targeted Americans based on their political beliefs. This bill seeks to rectify this problem by giving the Commissioner clear authority to fire employees who fail to meet the standards of conduct and performance we should demand of senior managers at Federal agencies.
“It’s extremely troubling that these problems have persisted for so long,” said Sen. Burr. “IRS employees must be held accountable for misconduct. Under the current policy, high ranking IRS officials can cheat on their taxes, lie to Congress, even threaten to audit people for personal gain – all without risking their six figure government salaries. This misconduct is absolutely unacceptable and I am confident we will put a stop to it. The American people deserve better.”
“IRS employees should swiftly be held accountable for their misdeeds,” Sen. Enzi said. “This legislation could bring that needed accountability to an agency that has a history of serious misconduct.”
“The American people are rightly frustrated when senior federal employees get away with misconduct and poor performance,” Sen. Grassley said. “It sends the wrong message that anything goes at the top tiers of the federal bureaucracy. Sometimes, a personnel change is what it takes to begin turning things around.”
“The IRS has an obligation to taxpayers in Nevada and across the country to ensure it lives up to its mission of providing top quality service and enforcing the law with integrity and fairness to all,” said Sen. Heller. “It is totally unacceptable for IRS employees to discriminate and commit misconduct based on a taxpayers’ political views. There must be ramifications for this egregious behavior. Last year, I was an adamant supporter of giving the Secretary of Veterans Affairs the ability to fire senior executives for misconduct. Granting the IRS Commissioner similar authority to fire senior executives who have failed in the performance of their duties is desperately needed at the IRS.”
“For far too long, so many of our taxpayer-funded federal agencies have operated unchecked under a culture of waste, fraud and abuse,” said Sen. Isakson. “As chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I have seen firsthand the bureaucratic hurdles that prevented leadership at the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs from holding bad actors appropriately accountable for their misdeeds and inappropriate conduct. That’s why Congress gave the secretary of the VA firing authority to remove employees that are found to be directly responsible for misconduct. Mirroring the reforms we enacted last Congress at the VA, I strongly support this measure to hold errant employees at the Internal Revenue Service accountable and help restore Americans’ trust in the IRS.”
“For too long the American people have been told there was nothing the IRS Commissioner could do to hold IRS employees who targeted conservative and religious organizations accountable for their actions,” said Sen. Scott. “That’s not good enough for the American people and that’s not good enough for me, and that’s why I’m pleased to join my colleagues to introduce legislation making it easier to fire poorly performing senior executives at the IRS. I am committed to working with my colleagues to get all the answers about what happened at the IRS and preventing it from happening again, because Americans on all ends of the political spectrum need to be able to live without fear of being targeted by their own government for their political beliefs.”
This legislation applies to the highest ranking IRS employees in the Senior Executive Service (SES). Actionable examples of misconduct include but are not limited to: threatening to audit someone for personal gain, conducting a seizure without approval, assaulting, harassing or violating the civil rights of a taxpayer or a coworker, lying under oath, falsifying or destroying records, concealing information from Congress, underreporting income, and failing to file a tax return on time.
The IRS Accountability Act has been endorsed by the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) and is part of a package of bills Sen. Burr has introduced to clean up the mess at the IRS. In October, Sen. Burr introduced the No Bonuses fox Tax Cheats Act, which would prohibit IRS employees who cheat on their taxes from getting tax-payer funded bonuses.