Sen. Lamar Alexander announced Wednesday a new bill seeking changes to the way the Internal Revenue Service accesses the information of taxpayers.
Alexander and 8th Congressional District Rep. Stephen Fincher are introducing the IRS Abuse Protection Act in response to revelations earlier this year that the IRS had engaged in unfair scrutiny of conservative groups. Among those targeted by the tax entity were Tennessee tea party organizations, which have been opposing Alexander in anticipation of next year's Senate primary.
As written, the bill would require the federal government to notify taxpayers when the IRS had accessed their tax returns or other information. Notifications would be required in writing and would have to include information such as who accessed records, the purpose of doing so, and how they were obtained and used.
The senator said in a news release the legislation was in response to the IRS violating First Amendment rights of groups "to keep people quiet."
"This legislation will give taxpayers the protection they need to make sure the IRS isn't using their information in a way that violates their First Amendment rights to speak up and speak out, for political reasons or otherwise," Alexander said.
In 2012, Alexander questioned the possibility of the IRS targeting groups after organizations, including the Chattanooga Tea Party, notified him of delays in obtaining a 501(c)(4) nonprofit status. Since then, the senator has lashed out against revelations regarding IRS targeting of groups and has demanded full compliance from the White House on an investigation into the matter.
Regardless, state tea party groups have been coalescing around unseating the senator next year. Last month, 20 groups in the state penned a letter to the senator asking that he "retire with dignity," and leaders for the Chattanooga Tea Party have been critical of the senator's record.
Since news broke regarding the IRS and conservative groups, new details have emerged showing the agency used additional terms, including "progressive" and "blue," to flag organizations, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
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