House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-Paterson) delivered the following opening statement at a hearing with Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig:
Good morning. I welcome my colleagues and our only witness today, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Mr. Charles Rettig.
Mr. Rettig, this Committee has waited a long time for you to join us, nearly two years. It is astonishing this is the first time you are appearing before the chief tax-writing committee in the House. With a brand-new Administration on the horizon, this may be your first and last appearance before us.
I’m disappointed you refused to join us for our important hearing on tax fairness a few weeks ago.
Historically, the United States has had an excellent record of compliance with our tax laws.
Americans dutifully pay their taxes assuming the system is fair for all. Whether you are rich as Rockefeller or just a regular Joe. Because of that, our voluntary tax system has been a model for the world. At least until recently.
Our hearing demonstrated how our system of voluntary compliance has come under assault by Donald Trump and members of his government – including you.
For five years, Trump refused to disclose his tax returns. Trump broke with the history of every president since Nixon. In so doing, he sabotaged public faith in our tax system. And you have aided and abetted him!
Since 2017, I have led Congress’s efforts to request Mr. Trump’s business and personal tax returns. The law is clear: under 26 United States Code, Section 6103(f), our Committee is legally and absolutely entitled to review Mr. Trump’s returns. And for 591 days, you and Secretary Mnuchin have broken the law to keep them hidden.
It is our responsibility to restore the public’s trust in our tax system. Donald Trump’s business and personal returns must be audited impartially and without political interference and the American people have a right to know whether that’s what’s going on.
Time is of the essence! Just last month the New York Times reported that self-proclaimed billionaire Mr. Trump paid only $750 in taxes in 2017 and 2018. $750! And in 10 of the last 15 years, he reportedly paid NO taxes.
Meanwhile, the teachers, firefighters, police officers, and garbage collectors in our districts are paying a heck of a lot more!
And the tax fairness issue manifests itself in many other ways, Mr. Commissioner. We hear over and over from our constituents who have failed to receive their Economic Impact Payments on time or even at all. I look forward to discussing how the IRS is rectifying these dire situations. No one who is eligible should have to wait for their check, especially during a pandemic.
We are hearing similar complaints about 2019 refunds. Our constituents have waited for months to get their refunds. I have a constituent who was told not to expect a response from the IRS on her 2019 return until January. January! I want to know if that is acceptable to you. I hope you will bring us up-to-date on your efforts to get through the backlog of returns collecting dust at IRS.
And finally, Mr. Commissioner, we will be following up on my question at the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee hearing: why are you not auditing wealthy taxpayers and corporations more extensively than low-income Americans?
I look forward to your testimony and the ensuing discussions. But first, let me yield to my friend, the Ranking Member, Ms. Walorski, for her opening remarks.