Sen. Ted Cruz is proposing the beleaguered Internal Revenue Service be abolished.
In an interview with Fox News in recent days, the Texas Republican said paying taxes needs to be straightforward, something that Americans can figure out “on a postcard.”
“I think we ought to abolish the IRS and instead move to a simple flat tax where the average American can fill out taxes on a postcard,” Cruz said. “Put down how much you earn, put down a deduction for charitable contributions, home mortgage and how much you owe. It ought to be a simple one-page postcard, and take the agents, the bureaucracy out of Washington and limit the power of government.”
Cruz proposed the change to the tax system as the House Ways and Means Committee was preparing to hear testimony from members of conservative groups about how they were singled out for extraordinary scrutiny when they sought tax-exempt status.
The allegations are that the agency targeted such groups for their conservative politics.
“People are outraged with IRS more than I’ve seen about anything else,” said Representative Aaron Schock, Republican of Illinois and a Ways and Means member. “They’re just mad that they’re presumably getting away with this behavior.”
Cruz is hardly the first lawmaker to spin visions of an IRS-less United States.
His fellow Republican and Texan, former Rep. Ron Paul, a presidential candidate in 2012, wrote in his recent weekly column: “The U.S. flourished for over 120 years without an income tax, and our liberty and prosperity will only benefit from getting rid of the current tax system.”
A Washington Post writer called Cruz’s proposal unrealistic, arguing that even with a simple tax-paying system, an agency must exist to ensure compliance.
“Cruz’s flat tax is actually a bit more complicated than most,” the Post article said. “It includes deductions for mortgages and charitable contributions. What if everyone says they gave a million dollars to charity and own a huge home? Who’s going to check all that out? Well, some well-meaning flat-tax collection agents, I guess.”
Meanwhile, a government watchdog found that the IRS spent about $50 million to hold at least 220 conferences for employees between 2010 and 2012, a House committee said Sunday.
The chairman of that committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., also released excerpts of congressional investigators' interviews with employees of the IRS office in Cincinnati. Issa said the interviews indicated the employees were directed by Washington to subject Tea Party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status to tough scrutiny.
The closest the excerpts came to direct evidence that Washington had ordered the screening was one employee saying that "all my direction" came from an official who the excerpt said was in Washington. The top Democrat on that panel, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, contested Issa's claim, saying none of the employees interviewed have so far identified any IRS officials in Washington as ordering that targeting.
The conference spending included $4 million for an August 2010 gathering in Anaheim, Calif., for which the agency did not negotiate lower room rates, even though that is standard government practice, according to a statement by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Instead, some of the 2,600 attendees received benefits, including baseball tickets and stays in presidential suites that normally cost $1,500 to $3,500 per night. In addition, 15 outside speakers were paid a total of $135,000 in fees, with one paid $17,000 to talk about "leadership through art," the House committee said.
Agency officials and the Obama administration have said that treatment of conservative groups seeking tax exempt status was inappropriate, but the political tempest is showing no signs of ebbing and has put the White House on the defensive.
Three congressional committees are investigating, a Justice Department criminal investigation is under way, President Barack Obama has replaced the IRS' acting commissioner and two other top officials have stepped aside.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.