Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Congressman Mike Kelly (R-Penn.) have been on a mission to set the record straight about a bill that would reform the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for the first time since 1998.
In an op-ed to Fox News, Kelly outlined how a report from Pro-Publica caused some Democrats to jump ship from an otherwise bipartisan bill that aims to increase the services that the IRS offers to taxpayers.
The Pro-Publica report claimed that the Tax Payers First Act — a bill that is co-sponsored by Democrats and Republicans alike — is actually a ploy to help lobbyists from tax filing services like TurboTax continue to rack up money. The report alleged that the bill would “permanently bar the IRS from creating a free electronic tax filing system.”
Because of this report, several Democrats, including 2020 candidate Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) slammed the bill as a ploy to help big business.
The for-profit tax prep industry spent $6.6M on lobbying and it's about to pay off: Congress could ban the IRS from creating a free electronic filing system.
I will be voting NO because Americans should be able to file their taxes online for free. https://t.co/UAO0K2jPYM
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) April 9, 2019
Why is Congress voting to make it harder & more expensive for Americans to do their taxes? Follow the money. Special interests, PACs, & corporations continue to purchase legislation like this. It's time to put people over PACs, country over corporations. https://t.co/0TBMpqX9mR
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) April 10, 2019
Because of the for-profit tax prep industry, Congress is about to eliminate the possibility of free online tax filing entirely. This is what happens when special interests and corporations are allowed an outsized presence in the halls of our government.https://t.co/Z3NFbH1NX5
— Steve Bullock (@GovernorBullock) April 10, 2019
This outrage prompted Kelly to pen a defense of the bi-partisan bill, correcting Pro-Publica’s report while touting the ways the legislation could turn the IRS into a government agency that actually serves the people instead of just shaking them down.
He explained that, currently, Americans earning less than $66,000 can file their taxes for free, online via partnerships between the IRS and private companies like TurboTax. Contrary to the Pro-Publica report, the Taxpayers First Act continues this practice and does not eliminate the option for the IRS to create their own system, if it chose to do so.
“ProPublica reported that this bill bans the IRS from creating its own online filing system. That is flat out wrong,” Kelly wrote. “The bill simply requires the agency to continue the Free File program, which it originally started without congressional direction.”
Kelly noted that, beyond continuing the file-free system as it stands, the Taxpayers First Act will create an independent appeals board for complaints, prevent the IRS from taking property without due process, and provide another option for free tax-preparation assistance for lower-income Americans who qualify for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Matching Grant Program.
“The IRS should be a tax administrator, not merely an enforcement arm. That difference is more than semantic. Americans should be able to pick up the phone, go on the internet, or visit an IRS office and receive the service they deserve. The Taxpayer First Act is a huge step toward that goal, and we should be celebrating this bipartisanship win. At a time when political partisanship seems to be at an all-time high, it’s important to highlight shared victories that benefit the American people, and it should be done without bias or agenda.”
Although some Democrats were quick to jump on Pro-Publica’s report to trash the legislation for allegedly blocking the IRS from forming their own online tax preparation service, none of them explained how they thought the government could provide a better online preparation service than a private company.