- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2023

House Republicans on Monday demanded the IRS turn over information about a left-leaning think tank’s $15 million study of a proposed e-file tax return system, saying federal law requires the review to be done by an independent group, not one staffed by former Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton aides.

Republican Reps. Jason Smith of Missouri and David Schweikert of Arizona, respectively the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and its Oversight subcommittee, told acting IRS Commissioner Douglas O’Donnell that the New America think tank doesn’t fit the requirement for an objective group to study the feasibility of a free e-file tax return system.

They accuse the Biden administration of trying to game the study to get a favorable result for a goal long advocated by far-left figures in the Democratic Party.

The review will be completed later this year.

Democrats tucked a provision into last year’s $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act that allocated $15 million to the IRS for the review.

The law said the study must be done by “an independent third party” to examine how the IRS could implement such a program, which would give the agency control over filing and auditing tax returns.

The IRS chose for the job New America, whose CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter served two years as a top official in the Obama administration. Among other think tank officials, board member Cecilia Munoz was Mr. Obama’s longtime domestic policy adviser and was a top aide in President Biden’s transition team.

MaryEllen McGuire, executive director of New America’s Postsecondary National Policy Institute, served on the White House Domestic Policy Council as Mr. Obama’s senior advisor for education. She also worked on education and social policy issues for Mr. Biden when he was a senator and was the assistant director of research to Mrs. Clinton when she was first lady.

Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, a program fellow at the think tank, was an adviser to Mrs. Clinton while she was secretary of state and also worked as a speechwriter for her.

New America is rated in Washington as an influential, left-leaning operation. It receives funding from left-leaning philanthropic groups including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the George Soros-backed Open Society Foundations.

The lawmakers also object to the administration’s appointment of Ariel Jurow Kleiman, a tax attorney and professor at Loyola Marymount Law School, to work with New America.

They said she has “already expressed support publicly for the IRS tax preparer-tax filer scheme.”

“Plain and simple – New America and Professor Jurow Kleiman are neither objective nor independent third parties,” the lawmakers wrote to the IRS chief. “They bring radically biased points of view that will [undoubtedly] shade any evaluation of the issues they are tasked to evaluate.”

The GOP lawmakers said a free, direct e-file tax return system “has been a long-time priority of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who have been focused on giving the IRS control over both the filing and auditing of tax returns.”

They said the administration is ignoring the law’s requirements for an unbiased study of such a proposal.

“At a minimum, the perception is that the administration has already predetermined that a government-directed e-file system should exist regardless of what might be found in a truly non-partisan, independent, third-party review of the feasibility, the cost to develop and operate such a system, the IRS capacity to run such a system, or taxpayer opinions on the matter,” the lawmakers wrote.

In the letter to the IRS, Mr. Smith said he was “very concerned that the administration ignored the letter of the law by choosing a biased think tank and a biased individual instead of a truly unbiased, independent third party.”

He asked the IRS to turn over documents related to the selection process.

A New America spokesperson has described the think tank as “a strictly non-partisan, non-profit think tank dedicated to public problem solving with expertise in technological change, the tax code, and the taxpayer experience of everyday Americans.”

Ms. Jurow Kleiman told The Washington Times that she “didn’t join this effort with the intention of advancing any specific position.”

“My only goal is to do my best to assess the feasibility and capacity of the IRS to offer a direct e-file tax system, as mandated by the Inflation Reduction Act,” she said.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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