IRS Commissioner Assailed on 'Tax Gap'

With this year's tax-filing deadline approaching, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson went to Capitol Hill Tuesday, hoping to talk about electronic filing, which he says was up about 5 percent last year. He had other successes to note, as well.

But Democrats participating in a joint meeting of House subcommittees had other ideas. They brought up the so-called "tax gap," — an estimated $300 billion difference between what the IRS collects and what it believes taxpayers actually owe.

They also brought up charges that the agency has not been aggressive enough when it comes to audits, including audits of big companies.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, said he wanted to make sure the IRS "does not have a catch-and-release program that not only releases corporations but doesn't even measure the size of the fish."

Some IRS employees have alleged the agency ended audits early, resulting in billions in uncollected taxes.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, a Democrat from New Jersey, asked about the agency's use of costly private firms to collect back taxes.

"Why are we doing this?" Everson asked, in response to Pascrell's questioning. "This is the law of the land. Congress asked us to do that."

"But it doesn't mean, Mr. Commissioner, that you capitulate if you think the process that is being suggested is not working," Pascrell said.

Lawmakers also expressed concerns about giving private companies access to sensitive taxpayer information.

As for the tax gap, many in Congress see closing the shortfall as a way to increase government revenues without having to increase taxes.

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