Barney Frank: Don’t Blame the IRS for the Tax Code, Blame Republicans
HAYES: "Congressman, it seems to me that there's this kind of category error in which people rail against the complexity of the tax code -- and members in Congress do that -- and then hold the IRS responsible, as if the IRS was the one who wrote the tax code when, in fact, it is those same people in Congress who have written the tax code. The IRS is just the ones enforcing it."
FRANK: "Well, that's absolutely right. and let's be very clear. And let's call the Republicans' bluff on this. You cited these efforts to reform the tax code and you cited 2003, 2005. Let's be very clear. In 2003, in 2005, the Republican controlled the presidency under George W. Bush, a majority in the House, and a majority in the Senate. the longest period we have had in many decades of one party being in total control of the House, the Senate, and the presidency for six years was during the Republican rule from 2001 through 2006, and they didn't do it. So let's drop this pretense. They are bluffing! In fact, many of the special provisions in the code that are complicated and protect special interests, they put there. It's also the case, by the way, that this notion that, you know, let's abolish the code -- well, how are they going to pay for all their wars? How do they plan to pay for that Iraq war, which President Bush pushed so hard and the Republican Congress voted for, a lot of my Democratic colleagues, I think, mistakenly supported them. Were they going to run that on a bake sale or by donations? It's obvious nonsense. And by the way, as to this enforcement of the tax code, remember what the IRS is trying to do. They are trying to say that you should not be getting the charitable deduction if your so-called charity, is, in fact, a front for a political contribution machine. And they have, and it was all going to be done first. And there was some suspicion it might have been conservatives. But it's now clear they were looking at both conservatives and liberals. Does anyone seriously argue that we do not have these frauds, that we do not have these political activist fronts, posing as charities? The charities ought to be joining and objecting to that. And the last point to make, and you talked about this, the more you shut down the IRS, the more you restrict the IRS, here's what will happen: If you are a wage earner and you're getting paid and your taxes are deducted, the withholding, every week from your pay, it's not going to make much difference to you whether there are a lot of agents or small agency, you're going to pay that full dollar because it's deducted. But if you are someone who's manipulating various tax preferences, if you are someone who's very wealthy and have income from various sources and are trying to engage in these kind of offshore frauds or other frauds, the fewer IRS agents there are, the more you'll get away with it."
HAYES: "That is exactly it. The more complicated your tax filing is -- and I want to show a picture that came today from Josh Romney, tweeting out, 'hey, Senator Reid, here's a shot of Mitt Romney paying taxes, does it every year. It's how you get your paycheck.' To Mitt Romney taxes, of course, a bone of some contention. Now, Mitt Romney is a perfect example of someone who has a lot of money, whose tax returns are anomalous. He is not like 80 percent of wage earners, right? And your point, Mr. Frank, is that the more complicated your taxes are, the wealthier you are, the more complicated your taxes are, the more incentive you have to try to defund and gut the body that acts as, essentially, a regulator on your private wealth, and what you keep, and what you pay to the government."
FRANK: "And that includes, by the way, the people -- and we know this is the case -- who are sending their money offshore, who are sending it, and we finally did a good job trying to go after the Swiss banks, to various Caribbean nations. Money that is earned in America and is sent overseas and sheltered from taxes, if we don't have IRS agents, we can't find that. Sp it is for the -- And the more the wealthy get away with, the greater the burden is on the wage earner. And again let's be very clear, the wage earner, the person who is working for whatever, making 40, 50, $60,000 a year, he or she has no chance to evade taxes, because those taxes are withheld from their paycheck."
HAYES: "There is so much about the tax code, I think that people hate, and it's easy to make the IRS the enemy, because, obviously, people don't like paying taxes, for totally understandable reasons."
FRANK: "And I want to stress, if they were really serious about fixing this up, they controlled Congress pretty tightly. I was in the minority, they could have done what they wanted to do. They want to complain about it and benefit from it at the same time."