Lawmakers Should Support the Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act

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Posted by Isabelle Morales on Monday, October 25th, 2021, 10:10 AM PERMALINK

Last week, Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), with Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), introduced the Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act,” which would bar the IRS from implementing Democrats’ proposed reporting regime on the bank, loan, and investment accounts used by virtually every American. There is also a House companion bill introduced by Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.).  

Democrats’ reporting regime would force financial institutions to collect any personal or business account in which the total withdrawals and deposits exceed at least $10,000 throughout the year. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates that taxpayers in every single income bracket would be impacted by this reporting requirement. This is a radical violation of privacy, will subject virtually every American to IRS abuse, and is not consistent with Democrats’ goals of making the “rich pay their fair share.” 

Sen. Scott’s bill explicitly prohibits the disclosure of any account’s outflows and inflows: 

“The Secretary of the Treasury (including any delegate of the Secretary) may not require any financial institution to report – 

(1) the inflows or outflows of any account maintained by such institution, or  

(2) any balances, transactions, transfers, or similar information with respect to any such account…” 

The proposed reporting regime is a radical violation of privacy. This policy would give the federal government access to virtually every American’s account inflows and outflows. The proposal is not tailored nor targeted at all towards higher-income taxpayers or more “suspicious” behavior. Steven Rosenthal with the left-leaning Tax Policy Center explained that this reporting regime proposal would "bury the agency in a sea of unproductive information.” In fact, if a family's monthly expenses total just $833 a month, or about $200 a week, their bank information would be reported to the IRS.

Additionally, the IRS already abuses current reporting laws. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) regularly violated taxpayers’ rights and skirted or ignored due process requirements when investigating taxpayers for allegedly violating the existing $10,000 currency transaction reporting requirements, according to a 2017 report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).  

The report found numerous abuses – IRS agents often failed to properly identify themselves, seized financial assets before ever having talked or consulted with investigated taxpayers, didn’t attempt to verify reasonable explanations investigated taxpayers offered, and did not inform taxpayers of important information nor the purpose of interviews. The outcome of these cases was often determined by how willing a taxpayer was to engage in litigation against the government, rather than how severe the alleged offense was, a clear violation of the Eighth Amendment. To make matters worse, the vast majority of taxpayers targeted were innocent. 

Finally, one must wonder: “Why would Democrats be pushing for this policy if their stated goal is to make millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share?” Evidently, even Democrats know that the IRS will need tools to use against the middle class in order to raise the amount of money they claim the IRS will raise through increased funding. 

Cosponsors of the "Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act" include Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), John Thune (R-S.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

The IRS has a long record of targeting and harassing taxpayers. This proposed new financial reporting regime is a violation of privacy, would provide another way for the agency to target taxpayers, and would disproportionately harm low- and middle-income Americans. To protect taxpayers, all lawmakers should support the “Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act.” 

Photo Credit: "Tim Scott" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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