WASHINGTON — A move is growing in Congress to abolish a controversial new Internal Revenue Service requirement that taxpayers who use automobiles for business purposes must keep current, detailed records of each trip and the mileage.
More than 100 House members and 44 senators have signed legislation to repeal that section of the tax code, leading congressional critics of the new record-keeping provision told a House subcommittee Friday. Congress approved the section, which became effective Jan. 1, only last year as part of a complex tax package.
The new requirement is "excessive and burdensome," particularly for farmers, the self-employed and small-business owners, Rep. Thomas A. Luken (D-Ohio) said at the hearing of the House Small Business subcommittee on antitrust.
Luken, the subcommittee chairman, noted that employees who use company cars for business and pleasure would also be forced to keep a log, much as taxi drivers do.
Even modifications developed by the IRS last month to cut down on the amount of paper work did not go far enough, according to several congressmen.
On Jan. 25, the IRS reacted to the flood of complaints by announcing some modifications. The formal language of the changes has yet to be made public, but a news release about the relaxation said a single log entry would suffice for any period of uninterrupted business use of a vehicle, such as a day of deliveries.
Most of the congressmen who attended the hearing said that they had received more letters of protest on the record-keeping issue from their constituents than on any other subject recently.
Rep. Buddy Roemer (D-La.), a key force in the House behind the repeal effort, said the new provision "makes IRS record clerks out of all of us." He said: "We want no attempts at modification or compromise. Let's just remove it from the tax code."
Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.), who is sponsoring a similar repeal effort in the Senate, declared that "the IRS overreacted" when Congress sought to correct the tax abuses of some businessmen who bought expensive automobiles for personal and business uses but deducted the costs solely as a business expense.
"We have made a serious mistake," Pryor said. "We gave the IRS authority to go out and correct the problem. Without question, they went too far."
Agreeing with Pryor, Rep. Berkley Bedell (D-Iowa) said: "I understand the problem was luxury cars but, in my rural district, we have no luxury cars. We have trouble paying for the pickup trucks."
According to Robert L. Feazell, one of several accountants who spoke at the hearing, the same IRS rules also require the logging of business and personal uses of computers that are located away from a place of business.
Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr. (R-Va.) responded that "increasing the paper work that a small businessman or woman has to fill out will not necessarily result in any greater revenue to the Treasury."