By Rep. Kristi Noem
With Tax Day only a week or so behind us, the amount of personal information we send in with our tax return is still fresh in our minds: Social Security numbers; our annual salary; in some cases, the routing number for our bank account! That’s the kind of information we wouldn’t share with just anyone, so it begs the question: whose hands does this information fall into once it arrives at the IRS?
Before we get too far in, I want to say that I’ve met with some incredible folks in South Dakota who do some of this work and do it with integrity. But the IRS is a nationwide agency. Not everyone lives up to South Dakota’s standards, including many decision-makers within the IRS.
In the past few years alone, the agency has targeted groups based on their political beliefs. They’ve let criminal acts pass by the wayside, sending out billions of dollars in improper payments. They’ve let calls from taxpayers go unanswered, picking up just 15.6 percent of calls during the height of tax-filing season this year. Thousands of employees have neglected to pay their own taxes. And all the while, the agency has handed out about $6 million worth of bonuses.
With all of this as background, it may come as no surprise that the IRS also knowingly hired hundreds of former employees who had previously been fired for misconduct. Some of these people had been fired from the IRS for filing false documents. Some accessed sensitive taxpayer information without permission. Some just didn’t show up to work for what totaled about 8 weeks’ worth of work, leading to a stamp on their personnel file saying: “Do Not Rehire.” Incredibly, all of these people were rehired.
Nearly one in five of the rehired employees had new performance issues when they returned to the IRS, according to a federal report. This defies commonsense.
What’s more, the IRS has shown a complete disregard for changing the practice and insists that prior conduct or performance issues do not play a significant role in deciding the candidates they choose to hire. I couldn’t let this policy stand.
I introduced legislation to prohibit the IRS from hiring employees they had already fired once for misconduct. It earned bipartisan support, and on April 21, the House of Representatives gave the legislation its stamp of approval. The Senate has already started its work on this legislation. I’m hopeful they can sign off on this bill soon and put this commonsense reform on the President’s desk.
In addition to the bill I introduced, the House passed legislation that ended bonuses to IRS employees until the agency starts to fix its terrible customer service record. We also passed a bill to get rid of an unaccountable IRS slush fund, giving taxpayers a greater say over how fees the IRS collects are used. Finally, we passed legislation to stop the IRS from hiring any new employees until they can certify that no employees are delinquent on their own taxes. These are commonsense, if you are out there to protect hardworking taxpayers.
These bills are only a snippet of what must be done to correct a broken system. Nonetheless, as we work toward a fairer, flatter and simpler tax code, I’ll be looking for more opportunities to make the IRS more accountable to you.