The Joint Committee Staff consults on an ongoing basis with the Treasury Department, the tax-writing committees, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to formulate and represent congressional views on issues raised by the Administration's negotiations of tax treaties and other tax-related agreements (such as NAFTA), and to contribute the Joint Committee Staff's technical expertise to the Administration. The Joint Committee Staff prepares hearing pamphlets for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on tax-related treaties and provides technical advice to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and its staff on tax issues raised by the treaties. The Joint Committee Staff assists the Foreign Relations Committee staff in formulating questions for Senators to use at hearings. The Joint Committee Staff generally testifies at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the tax issues raised by the treaties, prepares the Foreign Relations Committee's Executive Report on each treaty, and assists in drafting the Senate's resolution of advice and consent (with any reservations) on the treaty. The Joint Committee Staff is available to answer questions from Senators and their staff prior to and during Senate floor consideration of tax treaties.
B. Tax Issues in the Confirmation of Administration Nominees
The Joint Committee Staff is sometimes asked for advice concerning tax issues raised in considering Administration nominees requiring Congressional confirmation. Two of the rare instances in which this role became public were when the House and Senate Judiciary Committees requested review of the income tax returns of Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller in connection with their confirmation hearings for the position of Vice President. A confidential report was provided in each case. The Joint Committee Staff continues to supply confidential assistance (upon request) to Congressional committees and Members in their consideration of Executive Branch nominees.
C. Oversight of Tax System
One aspect of the Joint Committee Staff's oversight of the tax system is monitoring the substantive positions taken by the Treasury Department and the IRS to ensure that those positions are consistent with the legislative intent of the Congress. In addition to the refund review process, the Joint Committee Staff consults regularly with both the Treasury Department and the IRS to clarify the meaning of past legislation. The Joint Committee staff also monitors the administration of the tax laws by the IRS directly and through studies conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. GAO regularly conducts specific studies as an agent of the Joint Committee or in consultation with Joint Committee Staff.
Another aspect of the Joint Committee Staff's oversight of the tax system is developing and reviewing proposals for simplification and clarification of the tax laws.
D. Production of Original Public Documents
The Joint Committee Staff is responsible for the production of a substantial volume of original written material for use by Congressional offices and the general public. This includes pamphlets for hearings and reports, explanations, and statements prepared in connection with the progress of tax legislation through Congress. The Joint Committee Staff does all the preparation of these publications--often under extreme time pressure.
E. Availability of Legislative Materials
The Joint Committee is the only repository of complete legislative history materials on Federal taxation, starting with the Tariff and Income Tax Act of 1913. (For a variety of reasons, the collection of the Library of Congress is incomplete.) The Joint Committee Staff also distributes to Members, their staffs, and the public, copies of Joint Committee Staff documents dating back to 1970.
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