The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee has approved a proposal from U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) that would prohibit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from rehiring former employees who had been fired for specific misconduct.

“If a person is fired for falsifying information or mishandling sensitive taxpayer data, it’s common sense that individuals should not be rehired. Nonetheless, the IRS has done this repeatedly,” said Rep. Noem, referring to a 2017 U.S. Treasury Department report that the IRS rehired more than 200 former employees between January 2015 and March 2016 who had been terminated for misconduct or performance issues.

In response, Rep. Noem last July introduced the bipartisan Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act of 2017, H.R. 3500, which has six cosponsors, including U.S. Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL), Tom Rice (R-SC), Diane Black (R-TN), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

“This bill makes significant headway in bringing genuine accountability and oversight to the agency responsible for handling our most sensitive financial data,” said Rep. Noem, a member of the Ways and Means Committee.

Receiving committee approval by voice vote on June 22, the congresswoman added, “I’m hopeful we can move this solution forward quickly.”

Specifically, H.R. 3500 would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to prohibit the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service from rehiring any IRS employee who was involuntarily separated from service for misconduct, according to the draft text of the bill in the congressional record. No additional federal funds would be authorized to carry out provisions of the proposed bill, according to the text.

Former federal employees who wouldn’t be eligible for rehire would include anyone removed for misconduct under chapters 43 or 75 of title 5 of the United States Code, or whose employment was terminated under section 1203 of the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, according to the text.

A similar version of H.R. 3500 unanimously passed the House Ways and Means Committee during the last session of Congress, as well as the full U.S. House, said committee member Rep. Noem during its June 21 markup session on the measure. However, the former bill never advanced in the U.S. Senate.

“This Congress, we’ve made some small changes to the bill to address some of my colleagues’ concerns and I hope they will continue to support this bill in its new form,” she said.

Because IRS employees work with some of Americans’ most-sensitive personal information, including Social Security Numbers, Rep. Noem said “it’s critical that these employees who are in positions of public trust can be relied on to take that role seriously.” H.R. 3500 would ensure “all new IRS employees fit that standard,” she told committee members.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration in 2015 first brought to light flaws in the hiring practices at the IRS, highlighting examples such as the rehiring of former employees who had failed to pay their own taxes, for instance, or who had accessed taxpayers’ personal information without permission, Noem said.

“The IRS shrugged off the audit saying its hiring practices were good enough,” the congresswoman said, adding that H.R. 3500 is “a simple, bipartisan fix to this problem.”

The bill now heads to the full House for a vote.

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