Peter Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union told Newsmax TV
that the IRS' announcement this month that it has adopted a 10-point Taxpayer Bill of Rights will have no impact without congressional action.
"All of these 10 rights are great things on paper, and we can only hope that the bureaucracy embraces it, but we can't count on it. That's why Congress is going to have to get on the ball by codifying all of these things. They have to say to the agency, 'You don't have a choice over whether you're going to exercise these things. It's going to be the law — you're going to do it," Sepp told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.
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While several congressional committees are engaged in active investigations of potential abuses of power by IRS agents targeting conservative groups, Sepp says the sheer complexity and size of the tax system exacerbates Americans' fear of the agency.
"First, I would say that there's been a climate of fear that has persisted with our tax system and the agency since the very beginning. There was a poll taken in the fall of 2001 that found more people, by a 50 to 32 percent margin, feared getting an audit notice from the IRS in the mail than feared getting anthrax in the mail," said Sepp, who notes the IRS possesses "extraordinary powers of investigation" they can wield against American citizens.
The National Taxpayers Union estimates that Americans spends more than 6.1 billion hours a year just trying to comply with the paperwork required to file their taxes.
In addition to creating an atmosphere of fear, he says the sheer number of provisions in the tax code provides the IRS with too much discretion.
"The current 1040 tax return system and the corporate tax return system is massive, and that leaves a whole lot of room for latitude with the agency enforcing it and they're going to enforce it sometimes arbitrarily, oftentimes very harshly," added Sepp.
Sepp says the IRS deserves much of the blame for its poor reputation, but adds that they have been aided and abetted by a Congress unwilling to hold the agency to account.
"Now, I'm not going to defend the IRS in this case. I will say that there is an unindicted co-conspirator here, and that's Congress, in failing to reform and simplify the tax laws themselves. Do that as well as enact more taxpayer rights reforms and you'll have a tax agency with less power and less arbitrariness over people's lives," concludes Sepp.
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