President Clinton At Signing of IRS Reform Legislation
July 22, 1998
Thank you very much.
Ladies and gentlemen, before I make my statement, I would
like to amplify a little bit on the remarks I made earlier this
morning on the death of Alan Shepard. He is one of the great
heroes of modern America -- our first astronaut, our first
American in space.
None of us who were alive then will ever forget him sitting
so calmly in Freedom 7 atop a slender and sometimes unreliable
Mercury Redstone rocket.
As President Kennedy observed at the time, America chose to
make this first risky launch in full view of the world.
And our entire nation, in his words, "which risked much,
Alan Shepard understood the odds, and he faced them bravely.
And he led our country and all humanity beyond the bounds of our
planet, across a truly new frontier, into the new era of space
A decade later, in 1971, Commander Shepard fought his way
back from a debilitating ear infection to become the commander
of Apollo 14 and the fifth person to walk on the moon.
On behalf of myself and Mr. Bowles, I can't help noting that
there on the moon he lived every golfer's dream, taking his six
iron and hitting the ball, in his words, "for miles and
Alan Shepard truly had the right stuff. His service will
always loom large in America's history.
I extend to his wife Louise and his family and his colleagues
in the Navy and at NASA the thanks of a grateful nation and our
thoughts and prayers.
Now, I'd like to join Secretary Rubin in thanking
Commissioner Rossotti, the vice president and you, Mr.
Secretary, for what you have done. But I especially want to
acknowledge the presence of all the members of Congress here.
And in particular, let me thank Senator Kerrey and Congressman
Portman, Senator Roth, Senator Moynihan, Senator Grassley,
Congressman Archer, Congressman Rangel, Congressman Cardin for
their leading work that makes it possible for me to sign into
law today the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform
The bill is a culmination of the commitment and the hard work
of many people, but especially whom I have just mentioned.
We've all worked hard to give the American people an IRS that
reflects America's values and respects America's taxpayers.
Two years ago, I was proud to sign into law a Taypayer Bill
of Rights, again passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority
of the Congress, that has helped to make the IRS fairer and more
Under the leadership of the vice president and Secretary
Rubin, we've upgraded customer service at the IRS, appointing
Charles Rossotti -- a seasoned private sector CEO -- to reshape
the agency, expanding office hours and phone hours, making it
easier to file taxes over the telephone or by computer.
We created problem-solving days where taxpayers can work
face-to- face with IRS customer service representatives.
For the first time this year, IRS help lines were open for
the full 24 hours preceding the final filing deadline -- April
15th. And in 1999, they will be open 24 hours a day, seven days
a week all year long.
This year, 40 million more callers heard a human voice, not a
busy signal, when they called an IRS help line.
Nearly 25 million taxpayers took advantage of our
new high-tech filing options. That's a 25 percent increase from
the previous year.
Our streamlined IRS web page had nearly half a billion hits
All this has meant quicker refunds, less paperwork and fewer
hassles for American taxpayers.
But clearly, there is more to do to build an IRS for the 21st
century. This bill takes important steps in that direction.
It will help the IRS to serve taxpayers as well as the best
private companies serve their customers, building on efforts to
offer simple, high-tech options for filing taxes and making tax
forms more easily available over the Internet.
As Secretary Rubin has said, it expands taxpayers' rights --
extending refund periods, protecting innocent spouses, cutting
penalties in half for 2 1/2 million taxpayers who are paying
what they owe on installment plans.
In all these ways, the bill will give the American people an
IRS they deserve.
Again, let me thank the Congress for helping the IRS to meet
the challenge of serving taxpayers by giving it the time it
needs, also, to meet the challenge of the year 2000 computer
conversion. I call on the Congress to fully fund our year 2000
effort to allow all federal agencies to respond flexibly to
unforeseen difficulties that are sure to arise.
This bill shows what we can do when we work together, when we
put the progress of America ahead of our partisan concerns, when
we put our people over politics. That is how we have balanced
the budget for the first time in 30 years while cutting taxes,
expanding trade and investing in our people. It is how I
believe we can continue to make the tax code fairer for our
I have asked Congress to provide targeted tax relief for
American families for child care, to expand pensions, to spur
school construction, to protect our environment.
In the context of the comprehensive legislation to
protect our children from tobacco, I have supported the effort
to address the marriage penalty, by cutting taxes for American
Every one of these tax cuts is prudent, bipartisan and fully
For 29 years, our country ran up large deficits, quadrupling
our debt in the 12 years before I became president.
It caused us to fall behind in the global economy. It caused
our incomes to stagnate.
Now, we are on the verge of achieving our first balanced
budget and our first surplus in a generation, and our economy is
the envy of the world.
Fiscal responsibility has drive this economic expansion. A
return to irresponsibility would put that prosperity at risk.
After 29 years, it seems to me it's worth taking one year to
address the challenge of fixing the Social Security System
before we start spending the surplus on tax cuts or new spending
programs, however worthy they might be.
The American people expect us to have the good sense to rack
up the surplus before we spend it and to save Social Security
I know there are many people who think we should spend the
surplus now and spend hundreds of billions of dollars on tax
cuts before we have the bipartisan plan to save Social Security.
I think it's the wrong course for American, in no small
measure because we haven't fixed the price tag for saving Social
Security, and because, as we all know, we can't really predict
with any absolute certainty what will happen 10 or 15 years from
I believe we should tell our children and our grandchildren
that we think enough of them and their future that we're going
to resist spending a penny of the surplus on things that I would
very much like to spend it on, or you would, until we have met
our basic obligation to our future -- passing a bipartisan plan
to save Social Security, which I am convinced the Congress will
do early next year.
I do not intend to waiver from my commitment to future
generations, and I hope the rest of us will do the same.
Now, it is my honor to sign into law the Internal Revenue
Service Restructuring and Reform Act.
I would like to ask all the members of Congress to come up
here and join me on the stage.
Thank you very much.