Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Representative Stephen Fincher (R-TN) on Tuesday announced that they will introduce legislation when Congress comes back into session requiring the federal government to notify taxpayers whenever the Internal Revenue Service has accessed their tax returns or other information.
Senator Alexander said, “The IRS violated the First Amendment rights of the American people when it created what amounted to an enemies list of conservatives, including Tennessee Tea Party groups, to keep people quiet. This legislation will give taxpayers the protection they need to make sure the IRS isn’t using their information in a way that violates their First Amendment rights to speak up and speak out, for political reasons or otherwise.”
Rep. Fincher said, “Across the country, Americans are losing faith in the government as they’re watching the IRS play politics. This blatant violation of the First Amendment is unacceptable and I’m committed to making sure the IRS is never again used as a political weapon against any group, conservative or liberal.”
The “IRS Abuse Protection Act,” cosponsored by Sennator Alexander in the U.S. Senate and Rep. Fincher in the U.S. House of Representatives, would require that the secretary of the U.S. Treasury notify taxpayers, in writing, each time the IRS accesses their tax accounts, tax returns or other tax return information.
The notice must include who accessed the information, the purpose of doing so and how the information was accessed. Taxpayers would also receive a copy of the information accessed, and any report issued on how it was used.
Senator Alexander previously joined a letter by 45 U.S. senators calling on the Obama administration to comply with all requests by Congress as it examines the IRS’s admitted targeting of conservative groups and others during the 2012 election. This followed his March 2012 request to the IRS for assurances that its inquiries when considering the tax status of groups were consistent across the political spectrum. Senator Alexander first said the Obama administration’s behavior resembled the Nixon administration’s creation of an “enemies list” – which became public as part of the Watergate scandal – in October 2009. He cited administration statements treating businesses, the media and members of Congress like enemies, saying Obama should “push the street brawling out of the White House.” (Click here to read Senator Alexander’s 2009 speech.)
Earlier this year, Rep. Fincher joined over 100 members of Congress calling on Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to investigate the actions of the IRS. Following the letter to Secretary Lew, Fincher introduced the IRS Employee Responsibility Act of 2013. This legislation requires IRS employees to take responsibility for their actions in the same manner any private employee has to when they are sued in civil court by being responsible for their own legal fees and any judgment awarded, instead of the federal government providing an attorney at no charge and paying the judgment awarded.