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As tax day looms, GOP pushes "taxpayer bill of rights"

With tax day fast approaching, Republicans are pushing a "taxpayer bill of rights" that they argue is necessary to rein in the abuses of the Internal Revenue Service.

"Next week, the House will act on several initiatives to require more accountability and transparency at the IRS," said Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany in the weekly Republican address on Saturday. "This includes enacting a Taxpayer Bill of Rights complete with common-sense steps like requiring the IRS to fire employees that use their position for political purposes, prohibiting the IRS employees from using personal email accounts to conduct official business and improving access to the courts for groups that feel they've been wronged by the IRS."

Republicans have waged war on the tax agency since an IRS official revealed in 2013 that employees targeted conservative groups applying for tax exemption with unfair and burdensome scrutiny. Democrats have pointed out that some progressive groups were also targeted.

"This agency still operates in the shadow of a scandal in which it admitted to targeting organizations based on their political beliefs," Boustany said. "The investigation is ongoing, but the IRS still refuses to admit that some of its employees engaged in intentional wrongdoing. To successfully carry out its mission, the IRS must be viewed by the American people as an unbiased arbiter of the law. It cannot do that without coming clean."

In addition to IRS reform, Boustany said, Republicans will act to streamline the tax code and "provide more tax relief for American families."

In the White House's weekly address on Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden was pinch-hitting for President Obama, who's currently traveling through Latin America. The vice president touted the administration's plan to bring the cost of two years of community college "down to zero."

"Our plan is no giveaway," Biden said. "Students must keep up their grades and stay on track to graduate. States must contribute funding and hold community colleges accountable for the results. And community colleges must maintain high graduation and job placement rates."

"And here's a key point - community colleges will have to offer courses that are directly transferable to a four-year degree," the vice president added. "That means the cost of a four-year degree will be cut in half for a lot of working families struggling to send their children to college ... and under our plan, students from low-income families will be able to keep the benefits that flow from other financial aid, like Pell grants, to cover child care, housing, transportation - costs that often keep them from attending class and completing a degree in the first place."

To pay for the proposal, Biden said, the administration hopes to close tax loopholes that benefit "the wealthiest investors and levy a 0.07 percent fee on the biggest banks to discourage the kind of risky behavior that crashed our economy just a few years ago."

It's that part of the plan that has drawn the biggest outcry from Republicans, who have criticized the proposal as an extravagance the government can't afford.