Paul L. Caron

Thursday, March 18, 2010

House Approves Bill Requiring the IRS to Use 'Plain Writing,' Except in Regs

The House yesterday voted 386-33 to approve H.R. 946, the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which would  require the IRS and other government agencies to write public documents in "plain writing," defined as "writing that the intended audience can readily understand and use because that writing is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices of plain writing." The bill covers all documents issued by a federal agency to the public (whether in print or electronic form). Federal agencies would be required to comply with the rule within one year. But the rule does not apply to regulations: 

(2) COVERED DOCUMENT- The term `covered document'--

(A) means any document that--

(i) is relevant to obtaining any Federal Government benefit or service or filing taxes;

(ii) provides information about any Federal Government benefit or service; or

(iii) explains to the public how to comply with a requirement the Federal Government administers or enforces;

(B) includes (whether in paper or electronic form) a letter, publication, form, notice, or instruction; and

(C) does not include a regulation.

(Hat Tip: Tim Hanford.)

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And if they don't? So what?

a) JUDICIAL REVIEW.—There shall be no judicial review of compliance or noncompliance with any provision of this Act.
b) ENFORCEABILITY.—No provision of this Act shall be construed to create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable by any administrative or judicial action.

Posted by: B | Mar 18, 2010 12:09:27 PM

The bill requires that each agency report to Congress on its implementation of the bill's requirements. If an agency doesn't comply, maybe they lose appropriation $?

Posted by: Guy Helvering | Mar 18, 2010 2:11:37 PM

Congress ought to subject itself to this "plain writing" rule when legislating.

And why should courts oversee such a "plain writing" rule? That would lead to a lot of pointless and wasteful litigation. Separation of powers issues, too, as judges would have to become editors of documents generated by the executive branch. Most federal judges would not like being burdened with the task.

Posted by: Jake | Mar 18, 2010 6:29:21 PM

to the extent that the documents being released contain legislation enacted by the executive branch, I dont see a separation of powers issue. The fact that the executive branch can enact legislation seems to me personally (although i know the USSC disagrees) to violate the constitution. If you are going to allow the executive branch to enact legislation (against the clear and plain meaning of the constitution) how can you then argue that a court reviewing the language (to ensure plain language) of that legislation violates separation of powers

Posted by: t fox | Mar 19, 2010 10:38:50 AM

a similar rule should be enacted for law review articles.

Posted by: andy | Mar 19, 2010 1:15:26 PM