Congress audits IRS

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    By CHRIS ONSTOTT

    As horror stories continue to surface from the U.S. Senate’s probe of the Internal Revenue Service, several senators on the Senate Finance Committee have begun drafting legislation to regulate further the embattled agency.

    Among others, the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is drafting legislation further regulating the IRS, Paul Smith, Personal Secretary to Sen. Hatch said. Although Smith refused to go into the specifics of the proposed legislation, he did say that the evidence of IRS abuse of taxpayers was sufficient to ensure that legislation would be introduced to Congress soon.

    “Taxpayers should get a fair break from the IRS,” Smith said. “Senator Hatch’s staff is trying to come up with legislation that would accomplish that.”

    Hatch expressed displeasure with many IRS tactics used to collect taxes in a recent press release.

    “The people are scared and they are angry,” Hatch said. “It seems that everyone has their own personal horror story of abuse experienced at the hands of the IRS, or knows someone who does.”

    Some IRS officials trying to put a positive slant on the situation said they welcome the recent attention given to their agency.

    “Any time that the Senate or the public takes a look at the IRS and has recommendations or criticisms, it serves to make corrections and help us grow,” Communications Manager for the IRS in Indianapolis, Ind., Carolyn Stumpf said.

    Although the focus of the proposed legislation remains to be seen, it is expected that it will mirror the hearings which centered on mistreatment of individual taxpayers without enough financial backing to defend themselves. Stumpf disagreed with the assertion that the IRS is unfairly singling out individual taxpayers. “We audited 1.67 percent of individual returns in 1996 and we audited 2.34 percent of business returns. Our statistics don’t bear that out,” Stumpf said.

    Stumpf admitted that there have been incidents where IRS agents have used poor judgement in collection procedures but also reminded that in several instances the IRS has no choice. “There are instances that are being discussed where our hands are tied by the law,” Stumpf said.

    Many suspect Congress of attempting to boost their popularity by attacking the government’s least popular agency.

    According to a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of 1006 people, about 69 percent of people polled said that the IRS abuses their power and almost 73 percent said they thought the IRS had too much power. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.

    “I would guess that Congress is conducting the probe because it’s popular to take on the IRS,” Bob Davis, a BYU professor of political science said.

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