In addition to the two Traficant provisions, the new law makes a number of other major reforms. These include easing the treatment of so-called innocent spouses, suspending or reducing penalties and interest in certain instances, extending the attorney-client privilege in most cases to accountants and other authorized to practice before the IRS, creating a special board to oversee IRS management and operations, and giving the IRS more flexibility in managing personnel.
Since coming to Congress in 1985, Traficant has championed legislation to shift the burden of proof in a civil tax case. The government already bears the burden of proof in criminal cases. But most tax disputes are civil, and the burden in civil cases falls to the party in possession of the evidence, typically the taxpayer. The Traficant provision shifts the burden to the government to prove the taxpayer wrong but requires the taxpayer to keep records and cooperate with the IRS in any administrative proceedings preceding a court case. Traficant’s burden of proof provision was included in the IRS reform bill passed by the House last fall.
In addition to shifting the burden of proof, Traficant has for years promoted legislation to rein in the ability of the IRS to arbitrarily seize taxpayer property. While not in the House-passed version of the bill, Traficant worked with the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, U.S. Rep. Bill Archer (R–TX), to have the Traficant seizure provision included in the final version of the bill sent to the President. The provision requires the IRS to give a delinquent taxpayer 30 days to request a hearing before seizing any property, requires the IRS to seize business property only as a last resort, and mandates that a personal residence cannot be seized without a court order.
“I fought for 13 years to get these important reforms enacted into law,” said Traficant. “Needless to say I am gratified. At long last the American people no longer have to fear their own government. The IRS will now have to honor the Constitution. This is one of the most important accomplishments of the Congress this decade.”
A number of other Traficant-authored IRS reform initiatives have been enacted into law in recent years. These include a mandatory taxpayer sensitivity training program for IRS agents, a provision to make it easier for taxpayers to sue the IRS for willful misconduct, and increasing the penalty for IRS agent misconduct from $100,000 to $1 million.