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Rep. John Lewis & Rep. Mike Kelly Reintroduce Taxpayer First Act

June 7, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON- Due to significant bipartisan agreement, so rare in these times, that the thoughtfully deliberated provisions of the Taxpayer First Act will significantly assist the American people, the bill has been revised and reintroduced by Chairman of the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Ranking Member Mike Kelly (R-PA). 

“This bill is a ray of hope,” said Rep. Lewis.  “It is a significant win for the American people because it demonstrates that even in the most difficult times, we can come together as a nation, as a people and as a Congress to accomplish important things for the American people.  We developed this bill the way legislation should be created.  We listened to the voices of taxpayers, advocates and experts.  We asked questions for many months. The Oversight Subcommittee hosted hearings and roundtables.  Democratic and Republican members shared their concerns and ideas.   We negotiated.  We took our time, and believe that we did it right.  

“Together, we developed a bill that improves the independent appeals process and taxpayer services.  We worked together to ensure that taxpayers – especially those who are low-income, disabled, and senior citizens -- receive fair, quality, and timely help and support. 

“From the beginning, we committed to bipartisanship, and we refused to abandon our course, despite allegations that were not thoroughly research. 

Through it all, we set aside our differences about the tax code and came together on the behalf of the taxpayer. As a result, our final bill includes solutions from Members on both sides of the aisle and the dome.”

Former news reports inaccurately described the Free File provision in the bill, saying that it disabled the IRS from creating its own comparable program for taxpayers.  Those reports were immediately repudiated as false by both the Senate Finance Chair, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR). Regardless of federal codification, they both agreed, the IRS still has the ability to dismantle the Free File program at any time once it has given 12-months’ notice.

Though some resistance was stirred up by these inaccurate reports, members on both sides of the aisle felt that the major advances the bill represents were too important to lose, especially for poor and vulnerable taxpayers.  They also believed that if action was not taken now, while a bipartisan environment surrounded the bill, the window of opportunity to make these changes might be lost indefinitely. 

After House passage of the Taxpayer First Act, additional reporting revealed grave problems with the administration of the Free File Program.  Members wanted answers, and the IRS hired an independent investigator to explore these concerns.  Due to a Senate impasse, the sponsors agreed to remove the Free File provision and reintroduce the legislation.

The Taxpayer First Act is a critical piece of legislation that took years of thoughtful hearings, meetings, and study to develop.  It creates an independent means for taxpayers to appeal actions of the IRS, limits the capacity of private debt collectors to target low-income citizens, allows taxpayers to request an identification protection PIN number to protect themselves from identity theft, and creates a single point of contact so that taxpayer conversations with IRS agents can be documented and tracked. 

Further, the single point of contact for identity theft victims helps reduce citizen frustration in their interactions with the agency so they will not have to reiterate the entire course of their case at the start of every new conversation with a different agent or IRS employee. The bill also codifies the popular Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program and authorizes $30 million in matching grants for the program.  Rep. Lewis has spearheaded efforts to reign in abuses by private debt collectors, and this bi-partisan bill, in part, grew out of his work on that issue. 

The Taxpayer First Act 28 original cosponsors include:

  1. Representative John Lewis (D-GA)
  2. Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA)
  3. Representative Richard Neal (D-MA)
  4. Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX)
  5. Representative Suzan DelBene (D-WA)
  6. Representative Jackie Walorski (R-IN)
  7. Representative Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA)
  8. Representative Darin LaHood (R-IL)
  9. Representative Tom Suozzi (D-NY)
  10. Representative Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)
  11. Representative Judy Chu (D-CA)
  12. Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI)
  13. Representative Brendan Boyle (D-PA)
  14. Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL)
  15. Representative John Larson (D-CT)
  16. Representative George Holding (R-NC)
  17. Representative Danny K. Davis (D-IL)
  18. Representative Brian Higgins (D-NY)
  19. Representative Terri Sewell (D-AL)
  20. Representative Dwight Evans (D-PA)
  21. Representative Bradley Schneider (D-IL)
  22. Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-FL)
  23. Representative Jimmy Gomez (D-CA)
  24. Representative Steven Horsford (D-NV)
  25. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
  26. Representative Katie Hill (D-CA)
  27. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)
  28. Representative Van Taylor (R-TX)

Links to Bill Text , Section-by-Section, and W&M Ltr to IRS.