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Push to Reform, Update IRS Advances in House

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IRS building in Washington. IRS building in Washington.

House lawmakers on Tuesday floated a bipartisan discussion draft of legislation to redesign and update Internal Revenue Service operations and the IRS’ system of tax administration, with an eye on returning the IRS to its “service first” mission and overhauling its wildly outdated technology.

The sponsors of the draft House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas, and Ranking Member John Lewis, D-Ga. released the discussion draft titled The Taxpayer First Act, and welcome comments on it until April 6.

The discussion draft “is the culmination of more than eleven Oversight Subcommittee events, including hearings and roundtable discussions over the last three years,” Jenkins and Lewis said in a joint statement. “Dozens of witnesses testified before the subcommittee on different topics and with varying viewpoints on how to improve and modernize the IRS.”

Taxpayer interactions with the IRS haven’t been modified since 1998. “Two decades later, it is time to modernize the agency’s information technology, infrastructure and services,” the two lawmakers said. “It is time to return the IRS back to its ‘service first’ mission.”

With the new tax cut law now passed, “our attention must now turn to modernizing the IRS and improving the taxpayer experience,” Jenkins said.

“As a CPA, I know from experience the IRS can be very frustrating to deal with. I am proud of the work this subcommittee has done to advance this initiative in a bipartisan fashion.”

Jenkins wrote in a Monday CNN op-ed that at a time when “most Americans are able to spend entire days working with just their iPhones, the IRS still relies on fax machines for many official communications.”

The result: “tax preparers spend countless hours sending faxes to the IRS. Imagine the racket in that building,” Jenkins wrote.

Citing Government Accountability Office data, Jenkins wrote that the IRS “has two of the oldest legacy information technology (IT) systems in the federal government, which given the broader state of our government’s IT infrastructure, is quite an achievement. The IRS still has 1960s systems from the Kennedy administration used to administer our nation’s tax code, one of the most critical functions in government.”

Under the recently passed omnibus spending bill, the IRS was given $11.4 billion in fiscal 2018, of which $320 million must be used to implement tax reform.

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