The Corner

Court Slaps Down IRS Power Grab

More often than not, conversations about the Obama administration’s executive overreach end up with apologists asking, petulantly, “well, what are you going to do about it anyway.” This is interesting for two reasons: First, because it reveals that the speaker’s principles do not extend much beyond “do what you can get away with”; and, second, because it reveals that the speaker probably doesn’t know that the courts have often slapped this president on the wrist for imperialism. Indeed, the latest such example came yesterday from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which, per Tim Carney at the Washington Examiner, ruled that “the IRS may not unilaterally expand its authority through” what it described rather brutally as “an expansive, atextual, and ahistorical reading of” the law.

Reuters has the details:

An Obama administration campaign against tax-return fraud suffered a blow on Tuesday when an appeals court invalidated the first federal rules for unregulated tax-return preparers.

A three-judge appellate panel upheld a lower court’s January 2013 ruling that said the U.S. Internal Revenue Service does not have the power to impose test-taking and continuing education requirements on hundreds of thousands of tax-return preparers.

“We agree with the District Court that the IRS’s statutory authority … cannot be stretched so broadly as to encompass authority to regulate tax-return preparers,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said in a unanimous ruling.

The IRS took steps starting in 2011 to regulate unlicensed return preparers for the first time, with a program requiring up to 700,000 of them to meet testing and education requirements.

But independent preparers complained. Then in 2012, a libertarian activist group called the Institute for Justice sued the IRS, arguing that Congress never gave the agency authority to regulate preparers.

In January 2013, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg issued an injunction halting the IRS’s regulatory program. The Justice Department appealed his decision and lost on appeal.

Regardless of the merits of the administration’s regulations, the material point — once again — is that the executive branch does not make law. Hammer it home, guys. Hammer it home.

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