Politics Republicans use leak of billionaires' tax secrets to attack Biden's plan to boost IRS
Billionaire tax leak deals Biden blow in getting GOP support for IRS funding
The massive leak of billionaires' tax data has imperiled what support there might have been from Republicans to back President Joe Biden's plan to give more money and authority to the IRS. © Provided by Washington Examiner On Tuesday investigative nonprofit organization ProPublica released details about the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, a leak so expansive it covered some 15 years.
Ways and Means Committee Republicans on Thursday said the leak of tax information on rich Americans like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and other billionaires erodes trust in the IRS and should disqualify President Joe Biden’s proposals to boost agency enforcement.
GOP members of the panel — without citing evidence — blamed IRS insiders for the criminal breach of private taxpayer data, and suggested the timing was fishy. Republicans have been butting heads with Biden and congressional Democrats over the administration's plans to increase IRS funding and require banks to report account information to the agency, which Republicans consider a privacy violation.
Key House Republicans demand DOJ documents in leak of billionaires' tax records
The top Republicans on three House committees are ratcheting up pressure on the Biden administration after private tax information about thousands of the country’s wealthiest people was leaked to the media. © Provided by Washington Examiner Reps. James Comer from Kentucky of the Oversight Committee; Jim Jordan from Ohio of the Judiciary Committee; and Rodney Davis from Illinois of the Administration Committee sent Attorney General Merrick Garland a letter inquiring about the Justice Department’s efforts to investigate the massive trove of documents leaked to investigative nonprofit organization ProPublica.
“It certainly looks like it’s not only illegal but it’s also political and timed to coincide with the political debate that we’re having now,” Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.) said about the leak at a hearing scheduled to focus on boosting voluntary taxpayer compliance to close the so-called tax gap.
Hundreds of millions of dollars or more of taxes go uncollected every year. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig has said it could be as much as $1 trillion annually.
Yet, most Republicans trained their comments and questions on this week’s report by the news outlet ProPublica detailing the lack income tax payments by the 25 wealthiest people in the U.S.
Investigations under way: No source of the information has been publicly identified, and official probes have started.
House Republicans demand hearing with Biden administration over billionaire tax leaks
Republicans are calling for Biden administration officials to testify in Congress about the thousands of the country’s wealthiest people who had their IRS tax records leaked. © Provided by Washington Examiner GOP Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, led a letter from his Republican colleagues addressed to Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney of New York on Wednesday that called on her to hold a hearing to understand who is responsible for the explosive leaks.
The IRS’s inspector general was notified as soon as Rettig learned of the news report Tuesday morning.
Republicans pointed fingers at the IRS.
“Somebody at the IRS has apparently leaked to publications,” said Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.).
ProPublica has said it doesn't know the source of the information, didn't solicit it and "considered the possibility" it "could have come from a state actor hostile to American interests."
Smucker said the issue is having a devastating impact on taxpayer confidence, a sentiment shared widely on his side of the aisle. It doesn’t bode well for Biden’s plan for a surge in IRS funding and information reporting from banks, said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio).
“It’s a tough sell, I’ve got to tell you, right now,” he said.
However, it's unlikely many Republicans would support Biden's plan in any case.
Paper chase: Biden’s plan to ratchet up IRS enforcement includes a provision for banks to supply the agency with account holders’ annual inflows and outflows.
The Lab-Leak Trap
Recent coverage has ensnared readers in semantic quibbles, side points, and distractions. To focus better on what really matters, watch out for these traps:The No-Evidence TrapIt would be confusing—merely confusing—if no one could agree on the strength of the evidence for a laboratory accident. But certain pundits have suggested that we’re still completely in the dark.
The idea is to increase visibility on wealthier taxpayers who often have opaque proprietorship and partnership business income streams. There’s a “tendency” for underreporting taxes by those higher on the income scale, said Mark Mazur, Treasury’s deputy assistant secretary for tax policy, who testified at the hearing.
Biden has also floated some $80 billion in additional funding for the IRS, which would go to increasing personnel and modernizing the agency’s antiquated information technology systems.
“We’ve struggled to keep pace with change,” said Doug O’Donnell, IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, who also testified.
Republicans repeatedly said they share Democrats' concerns about closing the tax gap. But they also repeatedly warned of further empowering the IRS.
“I think we need to be very careful,” said Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.).
The Limits of Wealth-Tax Populism .
Safeguarding democracy from inequality will require much more than soaking the superrich.All this has been apparent for a long time. But thanks to some public-spirited criminal with access to the closely guarded files of the IRS, the precise terms of the billionaire class’s sweetheart deal grew more visible this week. According to tax records leaked to ProPublica, between 2014 and 2018, the 25 richest Americans collectively grew $401 billion wealthier, while paying only 3.4 percent of that sum to Uncle Sam.