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For more than a century, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has had a voluntary disclosure program in place. Its purpose is to coax into tax compliance those wayward taxpayers who have committed criminal acts or have been remiss in fulfilling their civic tax-filing obligations. Historically, the voluntary disclosure program has had to strike a difficult balance between being attractive enough to entice tax scofflaws to participate and not being too attractive lest ordinary taxpayers feel that their compliance efforts were for naught.

A unique feature of the voluntary disclosure program is that it is entirely administrative in origin. The commissioner of the IRS formulated the program and exercises carte blanche as to its terms. The program’s administrative origins have allowed it to be nimble and responsive to the evolving tax landscape, but such malleability has sometimes dissuaded qualified taxpayers from participation because they fear that the program’s terms are stacked against them.

This Article advocates that Congress codify the voluntary disclosure program to bolster its appeal. By taking this legislative measure, the IRS and taxpayers would have to abide by a set of written ground rules. Doing so would curtail both real and perceived agency abuses and likely increase the number of derelict taxpayers choosing to participate.