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CONTACT: Ari Fleischer or Scott Brenner

April 15, 1997 (202) 225-8933

Archer's Floor Statement on the "Taxpayer Protection Act"

Mr. Speaker, today is tax day, and I do my own taxes. Like millions of other Americans who struggle to fill out their forms before tonight's midnight deadline. I keenly know how difficult, time consuming, and troubling it is to comply with the tax code.

But once the forms are complete and mailed in, you would think that taxpayers could look forward to a refund, or for some unfortunate souls, an audit. But we have now learned that taxpayers have something else to fear ... IRS agents who snoop through people's personal, confidential tax records.

Mr. Speaker, taxpayer records are among society most confidential and sensitive documents. They often describe how much alimony people pay, how much they spend on health care, and of course, how much money they make. This -information belongs to the taxpayers, not the government, and taxpayers who suffer enough already should not have to worry about "Snooping Toms" at the IRS who abuse their trust by looking up private, tax information. Yet the General Accounting Office tells us that there are more than 1000 incidents that they know of in which IRS agents snooped into someone's files.

That's why I'm pleased that the House today, as part of "Taxpayer Protection Week", will pass this bill that makes it a crime to snoop into taxpayer records. This bill also adds an important privacy shield for taxpayers by requiring the IRS to notify taxpayer when criminal browsing activity is indicated. If someone's privacy has been violated by the government, they have a right to know it and they should be outraged. I believe these two provisions will serve as a twin deterrent to protect the privacy of taxpayer information.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the time when we in protect taxpayers not only from the IRS, but also from the current tax code, which after all, is the root cause of these problems. The current code is unfair, excessively-complicated, overly intrusive and anti-growth. I believe we must pull the income tax out by its roots and throw it away so it can never grow back. When we do, we will have made the tax system fairer, simpler, created more economic growth, and we will have gotten the IRS completely and totally out of the lives of every individual American.

Until that great day comes, we must do everything in our power to protect the rights of taxpayer. When it comes to fighting those who browse and snoop into personal taxpayer records, there ought to be a law. And now there will be.