Julie Ellsworth photo

Idaho State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth at an interview with the Free Press.

GRANGEVILLE — “I’m very offended by this. It’s wrong, it’s a warrantless search. Normally you have to have cause to come in and look at someone’s financials.”

This statement by Idaho State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth hits one of the key issues shared by other state financial officers across the nation, as well as legislators, who are pushing back against a Biden administration proposal for banks to submit annual reports to the IRS on “gross inflows and outflows” on accounts — both business and personal — with at least $600 or with transactions of at least $600 in a year. Opposition since this was announced by the treasury department in May has pushed that proposed threshold now to $10,000.

Speaking to the Free Press during a regional visit last Friday, Oct. 22, Ellsworth stressed many issues with the proposal that she said threaten the privacy of citizens’ financial information, negatively impact the public’s faith in government, and all to incorrectly tackle the purpose for this proposal. Last month, she signed on to a letter with 24 other state treasurers, auditors and financial officers to express opposition to this proposal to President Biden.

“This is outrageous and unconstitutional,” Ellsworth said. “First, it creates an ongoing audit of your information once you do reach $10,000 in transactions, which, is there anyone who doesn’t? Then, it creates the ability for the IRS to come in and look at every transaction you do.”

“The IRS is not equipped to handle our private information,” she said, noting as an example this year’s ProPublica breach where a suspected internal leak released private taxpayer information that was subsequently published by the organization. Ellsworth said she is trusted with state residents’ information, and a concern is, “under this proposal, I would, arguably, have to give it over.”

According to Ellsworth, the proposal’s intent is to address an $800 billion tax gap by the rich but, “the average American has $61,000. Why don’t you go after the rich?” The adjustment from $600 to $10,000, “that’s no improvement, because every American reaches that threshold.”

Ellsworth raised issue as the proposal would cost $80 billion to implement, doubling the number of IRS agents, whose purpose would be, she said, “to monitor our bank accounts.”

“If you are going to double the number of IRS agents, then why don’t you start answering the phones at IRS?” she continued. “Perhaps, if they want compliance, they should work to answer questions instead of working to penalize us.”

Reported last Friday, U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) joined senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to introduce legislation to prevent the IRS from implementing the plan. According to a release, the Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act would “prohibit the Biden administration’s proposed violation of privacy and federal government overreach.”

“It’s madness that Democrats’ proposal granting the IRS the power to spy on everyday Idahoans’ lawful, private banking transactions is even up for discussion. What you lawfully spend your money on is your business. Keep the IRS out of it,” said Risch.

“Every American should be wary of giving the IRS more power and more tentacles into private financial transactions,” said Crapo. “The IRS bank reporting proposal is one of the biggest expansions of the agency’s authority we’ve ever seen, and is fundamentally flawed.

For the public who want to get involved on the issue, Ellsworth directs them to the state treasurer’s website, sto.idaho.gov, for information and tools to help.

“On everything they are doing, it will undermine confidence in all our financial structures,” Ellsworth said. “As treasurer, this is hurting my constituents, and I am 100 percent in to push back against this.”

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