FILE – In this April 17, 2013 file photo, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. The storm engulfing the Internal Revenue Service over agents targeting conservative political groups could provide a much-needed boost to members of Congress working to simplify an outdated tax code that is so complicated most Americans hire someone fill out their returns. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)1 of 2
FILE – In this May 17, 2013 file photo, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. The storm engulfing the Internal Revenue Service over agents targeting conservative political groups could provide a much-needed boost to members of Congress working to simplify an outdated tax code that is so complicated most Americans hire someone fill out their returns. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)2 of 2
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative political groups has little if anything to do with most everyday taxpayers, but some lawmakers are hoping attention to the budding scandal will swell public and political support for rewriting and simplifying a federal tax code that has undergone some 5,000 changes in the past dozen years.
“The complexity of the law didn’t require the IRS to target people for their political beliefs,” said Rep. David Camp, the Michigan Republican who chairs the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. But, he added, “I think giving the IRS less discretion is going to be important, and that’s what a simplified code would do.”
Most taxpayers now pay someone to do their taxes or buy commercial software to help them file. In a report earlier this year, national taxpayer advocate Nina E. Olson ranked complexity as the most serious problem facing both taxpayers and the IRS. People simply trying to comply with the rules often make inadvertent errors and overpay or underpay, she said. Others, she added, “often find loopholes that enable them to reduce or eliminate their tax liabilities.”
Camp and his Democratic counterpart in the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, have been working for months on what would be the first major tax overhaul since 1986. At nearly 4 million words, Camp likes to say the current code is “10 times the size of the Bible with none of the good news.”
Lawmakers in both parties say the current storm buffeting the IRS underscores how overly complex tax provisions have given the agency too much discretion in interpreting and enforcing the law.
“This is the perfect example of why we need tax reform,” said Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., a member of the Ways and Means Committee. “If you want to diminish and limit the power of the IRS, you have got to reduce the complexity of the tax code and take them out of it.”