The IRS as Enforcer of the Affordable Care Act
We’ve assumed that, as a government agency wielding great power over every adult living in this country, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would exercise that power impartially and justly. Recent events have proved us wrong. Now, through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the IRS has been granted even more power over us. Should we be concerned? Absolutely! And it’s not just the IRS we should be concerned about.
Instances of serious IRS wrongdoing have been in the news over the last 2 years. When groups supporting conservative causes applied for tax exempt status, they were singled out by the IRS. Their applications were purposely shelved, in some cases for years. In one situation, it was proved that the IRS demanded donor information from one organization, and then turned it over to an opposing group. The names and addresses of those contributors were posted on the internet, invading their privacy and inviting harm to those people.
Even individual citizens have been targeted for their political activities. In yet another example of IRS malfeasance, a wealthy citizen supporting the ‘wrong’ political candidate was singled out by the IRS and persecuted with groundless accusations and onerous audits. It took $80,000 in legal fees to prove his tax reporting was without fault. In fact, the IRS now owes this man a sizable refund which, 20 months later, still has not been paid. In these cases, the IRS took actions that purposefully benefited some to the detriment of others. That’s not impartial. It’s not just. It’s outrageous.
Incredibly, no independent investigation of what happened in any of these instances has been ordered. No one is being held accountable. In fact, the very person who oversaw the most recent illegal IRS operations, Sarah Hall Ingram, has been put in charge of the IRS enforcement of the ACA.
Now that same agency will wield considerable power over people and companies as enforcer of the law. The IRS will decide who gets the rewards and who deserves punishment. They can impose extra taxes on some, refundable tax credits to others.
Under the new health care reform law, we must turn in proof of our health insurance along with our tax returns. The IRS will determine whether that insurance meets government standards. Fines will be imposed by the IRS if it doesn’t; and tax refunds will be confiscated to pay those penalties. Companies will be audited by the IRS to verify the number of employees and health insurance offerings. It’s the IRS that will penalize companies if they don’t provide insurance or if that insurance doesn’t meet government standards. The law also calls for the IRS to enforce a 3.8% hike on the investment income of those the IRS identifies as wealthy.
Although the IRS has requested $440 million and 1,954 new employees to cover its new ACA responsibilities in 2014, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated they will need an additional $10 billion over the next decade to get the job done. Analysts have also estimated it will take 5-16 thousand more workers as well. With this army of resources can we trust them to be honest and impartial? I would hope so but the truth is, the IRS peccadilloes and the ho hum attitude of those in charge are typical of what happens when power over 315 million people is given to un-elected government departments.
Our Constitution is based on a system of checks and balances. Our government was designed by people who understood the dangers of any one branch having unrestrained power over the others. Our founding fathers didn’t foresee un-elected, unchecked agencies so powerful that citizens would be fearful to protest for fear of retribution. Now the ACA has created even more of these agencies and made existing ones more powerful. Although conservative estimates cite 47 new bureaucracies, the non-partisan Congressional Research Services says the actual number of new agencies is unknowable.
The passing of the ACA has opened the door to all kinds of abuse. Health care in this country constitutes 20% of the entire economy. Giving control over that much of our country to un-elected agencies is just asking for trouble. It’s just too tempting to use that power to benefit friends and punish “enemies” just as the IRS did.