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Public Statements

Stop Playing on Citizens' Cash Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. ROSKAM. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

H.R. 2769 offers the House an opportunity to go back to our constituents who are asking this question when we are out and about at home: What in the world is the House of Representatives doing about the IRS scandals? There is a series of scandals that we've heard about that we've heard testimony from in both the Ways and Means Committee, on which I and the ranking member serve, and also the Government Oversight Committee--and my suspicion is maybe some other committees of the House. But when our constituents say, What in the world are you doing?, this bill that we are discussing is part of that remedy.

Here is one of the things that we have come to learn, Mr. Speaker:

We've come to learn that the Inspector General, the Treasury Inspector General for tax administration, did an audit; and in the course of the audit discovered that there were funds that were being misused in the context of conferences. Some of them were conferences that looked at, even in the most favorable light, even if you were looking at it in the most favorable light from an IRS point of view, were clearly gratuitous and an abuse and overspending. Some of this had to do with videos that were videos of parodies of the television show ``Star Trek'' and, actually, I think a bunch of nonsense. Some of it had to do with the purchasing of trinkets. Some of it had to do with overspending. So the Inspector General very clearly said, Look, there has to be a remedy here.

What the House is proposing in consideration of this bill is that all of these IRS conferences have to stop--hit the pause button on all of them--until the recommendations of the Inspector General are met. When the Inspector General then reports to Congress that those recommendations that would stop the nonsense have been fulfilled under a new set of criteria, the IRS says that they've met these, the Inspector General certifies it, then the conferences can go on.

I think it's thoughtful. I think it has been approached on a bipartisan basis. I have been very encouraged by the spirit with which the Democrats and Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee have worked together to investigate and inquire of the IRS but not just looking through the rearview mirror. Looking through the rearview mirror, yes, but also saying: What did we learn? How do we prospectively make sure that these things don't happen again?

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. ROSKAM. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I suppose that's an endorsement of the bill. It took a while. The ranking member took us on a journey, and I appreciate the journey, but I think what the ranking member said is that he actually supports H.R. 2769, and I appreciate that. I think one of the things that may have been persuasive to the ranking member, which was persuasive to me, is that part of the report--the summary from the inspector general--in which the inspector general, after reviewing all of this, says that procedures at the time of the conference did not require IRS management to track and report actual conference costs.

In other words, the IRS wasn't holding to a standard that it holds you to, Mr. Speaker, and your constituents or the ranking member's constituents or my constituents, because, when my constituents go to the IRS and when they say, ``Well, I don't have my receipts,'' or ``I don't have `this' or I don't have `that,' '' they get a cold, glassy-eyed stare from the Internal Revenue Service and no mercy from the Internal Revenue Service.

So I am delighted and I am encouraged, and I very much appreciate the ranking member's pointing out the progress that the IRS has made and the other areas where the IRS needs to go. Just let me briefly draw the body's attention to what these nine actual recommendations are. After all, this is not climbing Mount Everest, but they are pretty solid, commonsense recommendations:

It requires the IRS' Chief Financial Officer to verify that appropriate information is being tracked to ensure actual costs of the conferences can be established and audited. That's what I referenced a minute ago;

It implements a policy to determine whether training sessions held at the conference qualify for continuing professional education credits for CPA employees;

It sets standards for the site of a conference. The report recommends against nongovernmental facilities unless the benefits will offset increased expenditures and spending will not be seen as unnecessary by the public;

It implements procedures to identify when nongovernment event planners are used, how much they are paid and how they are being selected;

It directs the Chief Financial Officer to establish standards regarding planning trips for conferences;

It outlines the necessity for produced videos at conferences in response to the claim that the IRS spent over $50,000 on video skits;

It sets standards on whether hotel room upgrades should be allowed;

It requires the submission of W-2 tax forms for local IRS employees who were reimbursed for staying overnight at conferences--just a little irony there if you're tracking with me, Mr. Speaker;

Finally, it recommends that the CFO establish procedures to determine the necessity of an exhibitor's hall, promotional items, and other significant costs.

Common sense. Thoughtful. It's meant to restore the public's confidence in the Internal Revenue Service, and it is my hope that it is widely supported on both sides of the aisle today.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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