Statutory Basis

The Joint Committee is established under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.The Joint Committee formally consists of ten Members of Congress: five from the Senate Committee on Finance (there are three from the majority and two from the minority); and five Members from the House Committee on Ways and Means (also three from majority and two from the minority).

The statutorily prescribed duties of the Joint Committee are:

  • To investigate the operation and effects of internal revenue taxes and the administration of such taxes;
  • To investigate measures and methods for the simplification of such taxes;
  • To make reports to the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance (or to the House and the Senate) on the results of such investigations and studies and to make recommendations;and
  • To review any proposed refund or credit of income or estate and gift taxes or certain other taxes set forth in Code section 6405 in excess of $2,000,000.3

Under Internal Revenue Code section 8021, the Joint Committee is empowered to:

  • Obtain and inspect tax returns and return information (as specified in sec. 6103(f));
  • Hold hearings, require attendance of witnesses and production of books, administer oaths, and take testimony;
  • Procure printing and binding;
  • Make necessary expenditures. In addition, section 8023 authorizes the Joint Committee (or the Chief of Staff), upon approval of the Chairman or Vice-Chairman, to secure tax returns, tax return information or data directly from the IRS or any other executive agency for the purpose of making investigations, reports, and studies relating to internal revenue tax matters, including investigations of the IRS's administration of the tax laws.

In addition to these functions that are specified in the Internal Revenue Code, the Congressional Budget Act of 19744 requires the Joint Committee to provide revenue estimates for all tax legislation considered by either the House or the Senate. Such estimates are the official Congressional estimates for reported tax legislation.5

1. Sections 8001-8005 and 8021-8023 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, and predecessor sections of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, the Internal Revenue Code of 1939, and preceding Revenue Acts back to the Revenue Act of 1926. These legislatively prescribed duties are essentially unchanged since the Revenue Act of 1926.
2. Section 8022 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
3. Section 6405 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
4. Section 201(g), as amended by the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (Gramm-Rudman-Hollings), P.L.
5. Id.

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