House approves Bishop, Walorski bills to revamp IRS information technology, security

The House approved legislation on April 18 that U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI) led to modernize information technology (IT) systems used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to ramp up efforts to fight identity theft and tax refund fraud, a bill that drew strong support from U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN).

Acknowledging that the IRS struggles to complete large-scale technology modernization projects despite spending $2.4 billion each year on IT, Rep. Bishop introduced the 21st Century IRS Act, H.R. 5445, which outlines changes to make IT systems more efficient, secure and convenient for taxpayers. He introduced the bipartisan bill with U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA).

The legislation, approved on a vote of 414-3, included a bill from Rep. Walorski, the IRS Information Technology Accountability Act, H.R. 5362, which would improve accountability by codifying the role of the IRS’s chief information officer, among other reforms.

The legislation from Reps. Bishop and Walorski were part of a package of bills approved by the House this week to redesign the IRS and improve customer service, the first such effort to reform the agency in more than two decades.

“One of the most common, heartbreaking issues folks from Michigan reach out to my office for assistance with is identity theft,” Rep. Bishop, a member of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, said.

“Since coming to Washington, those stories of ID theft have only become more frequent and are often compounded by delays due to the IRS’s outdated technology,” Rep. Bishop added. “We live in a world of constantly emerging threats and sophisticated criminals who are probing to gain access to taxpayer information, and the 21st Century IRS Act is an important step to overhaul and modernize IRS IT infrastructure, giving Americans more peace of mind.”

Under the bill, the Security Summit, an IRS initiative to build public-private partnerships to fight taxpayer identity theft and tax refund fraud, would be codified. In addition, the IRS would be directed to develop an online portal for employers to file Form 1099 and the agency would be authorized to develop an automated Income Verification Express Service (IVES) system under H.R. 5445.

“This will ease the compliance burdens for taxpayers and business and allow the IRS to get tax information in a timely manner, which will improve the quality and accuracy of security checks,” Rep. Bishop said on the House floor.

H.R. 5445 would also allow the IRS to accept credit and debit card payments for taxes, and it would require the U.S. Treasury Secretary to explore additional avenues to improve the payment platform and to increase the number of tax refunds that are delivered electronically.

Rep. Walorski said, “This bipartisan legislation is a big step toward bringing the IRS into the 21st century, restoring a culture of accountability, and putting taxpayers first.”

Walorski’s H.R. 5362 would implement a multiyear strategic plan for the IRS’s IT needs and require regular coordination between the chief information officer and chief procurement officer.

“There’s a trust gap between taxpayers and the IRS, and the IRS’s information technology systems are a good example of why,” Walorski said in remarks on the House floor ahead of the vote. “The IRS has an urgent need to overhaul its IT systems, some of which date back to the Kennedy administration, but repeated mistakes big and small undermine our trust in them.”