Tax Writers Promise 50 Years Of Secrecy For Reform Suggestions

Thursday, 25 Jul 2013 01:51 AM

By Matthew Auerbach

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Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the panel’s ranking Republican, have guaranteed their fellow senators a half-century’s worth of secrecy for any suggestions they provide concerning what deductions and credits should be saved in tax reform.

The Senate’s top tax writers gave their promise that any recommendations they receive from lawmakers will be kept from view by both the committee and the National Archives until the end of 2064, according to The Hill.

Baucus and Hatch have said only 10 staff members will have access to the suggestions and each one will be provided its own ID number and be kept on password-protected servers, with hard copies to be kept in locked safes.

The confidentiality guarantee was made public just 48 hours before the deadline for lawmakers’ involvement in the Finance Committee’s “blank slate” process, in which the they put forth their submissions regarding what credits and deductions should be kept in a streamlined tax code.

A Finance Committee aide said Baucus and Hatch made the promise of secrecy as a way to show colleagues how serious they are about confidentiality, The Hill says.

Last week, members of the panel sent a memo to senators filling them in on the deal.

“The letter was done at the request of offices to provide some assurance that the committee would not make their submissions public,” the aide said. “Sens. Baucus and Hatch are going out of their way to assure their colleagues they will keep the submissions in confidence.”

Keeping the submissions confidential for 50 years, the aide added, was “standard operating procedure for sensitive materials, including investigation materials.”

Baucus fully expects more senators to participate in writing because of the secrecy guarantee.

“Several senators have said to me how important that is to them,” Baucus said. “It’s quite significant.”

The need for privacy is paramount for senators who have to deal with possible pushback from interest groups and businesses in their home states.

Some lawmakers say the blank slate forces them to choose sides on tax breaks that can have passionate backers back home and make them appear to be favoring special interests.

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