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EDITORIAL: IRS to control your health care

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Congress is creeping closer to passing a government health care bill without telling taxpayers how they are going to pay for the crippling bureaucratic expansion. The reason Democrats are so secretive is that they are ramping up the power of the Internal Revenue Service to make Americans' health care decisions for them.

A new report on the poor quality of service Americans receive from the IRS doesn't augur well for the agency's central role in government health care. With the April 15 tax day just three months away, the IRS already is warning tax filers that about three of every 10 taxpayers who phone the tax office "will likely be ignored this year."

In its annual report to Congress, the IRS admitted that it is overwhelmed as more people are calling for help because of increasingly complex questions about the bewildering, nearly 70,000-page tax code. Twisted up in its own red tape, the IRS lamely admits that answering just 71 percent of those seeking help is a target for the agency. Efforts to improve performance will be considered a success so long as the IRS answers more calls than last year, when it picked up 64 percent of the time. One major problem with this measure is that the 64 percent figure is meaningless because it has no relationship to how many of the calls that were answered were done so correctly. Alas, taxpayers are still liable even if the IRS gives the wrong answer over the phone.

The House and Senate health care bills are more than 2,000 pages each, and both are chock-full of new regulations that further empower the IRS. So many new tax rules mean the tax system is about to get a lot more complicated, and the IRS is going to have to handle even more confused customers. In particular, the IRS will be involved in monitoring whether people have the "right level" of health insurance, which the bureaucracy will determine. Not even Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, can get an answer from the IRS about this mess. "Are they capable of doing it? How much more is it going to cost to do it? Do they know what the law requires?" the senator asked. "And we never got a concrete answer from the IRS."

If the Obama administration can't answer Mr. Grassley's basic queries, there's little chance the Democrats are capable of accurately answering - or even willing to address - the myriad other questions about the implications of the IRS' expanded role in the government health care bill. At least two fundamental concerns demand attention but are being ignored because Democrats know their plans would be undermined if they were honest about the issues. The simple questions are: Do Americans really want the IRS even more deeply involved in their lives? Do Americans really want to do battle with the IRS each year on yet another front? The answer to both is clearly no.

Taxpayers should all be afraid of the fact that the Obama administration and the IRS refuse to answer the most basic questions about the tax agency's proposed new powers over individual health care. Democrats are secretive because the truth is going to hurt.