A recent Register editorial backed President Joe Biden’s plan to throw an additional $80 billion in taxpayer money back at the IRS to recoup unpaid taxes. These pages said I “should be leading the charge to ensure tax scofflaws are pursued.” The Register failed to recognize that I’ve been leading this charge for years.
 
As a taxpayer watchdog and longtime member of the Senate’s tax-writing Finance Committee, here are just some of the ways I’ve worked to hold tax cheats accountable — without spending excess billions in the process:
 
Private Debt Collection Program: I championed the effort in 2015 to create public/private partnership, which uses independent contractors to help the IRS collect unpaid debts. This program has been extremely successful, recovering more than $969 million since 2017. The program’s growing success has allowed the IRS to hire additional staff.
 
IRS Whistleblower Program: The program I authored in 2006 has helped the IRS recover more than $6 billion from tax cheats. This program was modeled after my 1986 False Claims Act reboot, which has recovered more than $64 billion in taxpayer dollars lost to fraud. I’m writing legislation to beef up this program that would allow the IRS to keep more of the recovery to pursue fraud.
 
“Charitable Giving” Schemes: In 2005, I chaired a Finance Committee hearing and issued a report exploring reforms to prevent tax cheats from abusing laws intended to promote charitable giving for their own personal interests. Administration officials reportedly have suggested charitable organizations may see a windfall of donations due to proposed Biden’s tax increases. Look for charitable giving scams to follow suit.
 
Nonprofit Accountability: In 2007, I launched an investigation into nonprofit organizations, which must comply with certain requirements to be eligible for tax-exempt status. Holding tax-exempt organizations is an evergreen priority.
 
Conservation Easements: In 2019, I led a bipartisan investigation into tax avoidance schemes that exploit conservation programs to game the tax system and deprive the federal government of billions in revenue.
 
I share the Register’s view that we must do more to close the tax gap — the difference between taxes due and those voluntarily paid. Closing this gap means not only more federal revenue, but also more compliance with our tax laws, and more fairness for all taxpayers. However, history has shown that simply throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily yield a solution. And the administration’s rationale for such a sweeping IRS spending plan needs an audit of its own.
 
The Register says the IRS “has been starved.” But in the last two fiscal years, Congress gave the IRS more funding for enforcement than it requested, allocating more than $10 billion in 2020 and 2021.
 
The Biden administration claims more money for enforcement would allow the IRS to collect at least $700 billion. Outside experts have disputed this rosy revenue scenario. Even if this pipe dream is realized, the extra revenue is dwarfed by the Democrats’ $6 trillion spending agenda. And businesses of all sizes would incur new and burdensome compliance costs and reporting requirements along the way. Instead of promising a chicken in every pot, Biden’s plan promises an auditor at every kitchen table.
 
The IRS also has a trust deficit. During the Obama administration, the IRS was weaponized to target conservative political organizations, and wasted millions in taxpayer dollars on elaborate conferences, and bonuses for IRS employees who failed to pay their own taxes. The IRS also burned through tens of millions of dollars on software that never got off the ground. Americans are right to be wary about further investment in the IRS without significant controls.
 
As my record shows, I’m not opposed to making smart investments to improve compliance and customer service. I’ve steered a series of taxpayer rights laws through Congress to reorganize the agency to emphasize customer service. I’ve voted to increase IRS funding to restore taxpayer confidence and improve taxpayer fairness. I’ve also worked with the Iowa delegation to improve IRS’s services for Iowans.
 
I’ll continue working to improve fairness for taxpayers, hold tax cheats accountable and promote compliance, confidence and customer service. But let’s not beat around the bush. Iowans need to know Biden’s $80 billion price tag means greater burdens, especially on small businesses already hanging by a thread to recover from the pandemic. 
 
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is senior member and a former chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, and wrote the Taxpayer First Act signed into law in 2019.