Shaking Up the IRS

Because the recently completed budget deal includes so many changes to the tax code, it's unlikely Congress will make major tax policy changes any time soon. But lawmakers do seem ready for some serious debate about shaking up the Internal Revenue Service.

A national commission on restructuring the IRS, co-chaired by Sen. Robert Kerrey, D-Neb., and Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in June recommended a series of changes, including placing the agency under the control of a new seven-member board rather than the Treasury Department. The Administration is strongly opposed to the idea.

Legislation to implement the commission's recommendations was introduced on Capitol Hill in July. There's already been one hearing on the Portman-Kerrey proposals before the House Ways and Means Committee, and L. Ari Fleischer, a spokesman for the committee's chairman, Rep. Bil Archer, R-Texas, says more hearings and possibly a markup will take place this fall.

An IRS restructuring bill could even be passed and sent to the President as early as March or April of 1998, Fleischer predicts. "Getting the IRS out of people's lives one step at a time," he says, "is a very important step toward the eventual goal of total tax reform."

But William G. Gale, a tax expert at the Brookings Institution, says the IRS is simply a convenient target. "One of the great ironies of all this is that one direction the debate goes is that now Congress will focus its attention on the IRS and claim that they're doing a poor job administering the tax system and neglect to mention the fact that the tax system is a holy mess precisely because of the laws that Congress has passed," says Gale. "The IRS is by no means a perfect agency, but having to administer this tax system, they're starting with one hand tied behind their back."

This article is excerpted from "A Hike in Complexity" from the August 23 issue of National Journal.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.