Senator Warren chides US Treasury for slow progress in tackling racial discrimination

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By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren called on the Treasury Department this week to address racial discrimination in the U.S. tax and banking systems more swiftly by advancing reforms proposed by an advisory board set up in December 2022.

In a letter dated May 9, Warren told Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen she was concerned that many recommendations made by the Treasury Advisory Committee on Racial Equity (TACRE) had not been implemented, including reforms to the IRS audit process.

Yellen named 24 experts to the committee to analyze U.S. economic factors that resulted in unfavorable conditions for Black, Latino and Native Americans. They have made over 40 recommendations to date, but experts say change has been slow.

Warren said the recommendations would improve economic conditions for communities that face barriers to building equity and assuring financial security for their families, and urged Yellen to implement them swiftly.

"I am concerned that the recommendations made by members of the TACRE remain in limbo at Treasury," Warren wrote in the letter, which was first reported by Reuters.

In response to the letter, Treasury cited rapid recoveries in Black and Latino unemployment rates, and significant gains in household wealth for both groups, relative to previous downturns.

“The Treasury Department putting equity at the center of policy implementation led to the most equitable economic recovery on record, and we continue to prioritize these efforts,” a spokesperson said.

One committee member, Dorothy Brown, a tax lawyer and law professor, told Marketplace in January she worried that Treasury was not embracing the recommendations and saw the committee as a "check-the-box" exercise.

Warren asked Treasury to brief her staff by May 23 on the timeline for implementing the remaining proposals, including reforms to the Internal Revenue Service's auditing progress, and creation of outreach tools to ensure low-income tax credits and green energy credits reached underserved communities.

The Democratic senator's letter comes as President Joe Biden works to shore up support in communities of color ahead of the November presidential election, in which he is seeking a second term. A number of Republican senators have challenged the creation of the committee, and its work has been closely scrutinized.

(Reporting by Andrea ShalalEditing by Frances KerryEditing by Jacqueline Wong and Frances Kerry)