According to Congress, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is prioritizing bonuses and union activity instead of helping taxpayers. It has been known for some time that the IRS is strapped for cash but being accused of diverting funds from customer service has raised some serious red flags.
Congress even stated that the IRS chose to implement the President’s healthcare law in favor of helping taxpayers get through the current tax season. The Republican led report was released by the House Ways and Means Committee prior to this morning’s subcommittee hearing with John Koskinen, IRS commissioner.
During the hearing, Koskinen strong emphasized that the IRS does not receive adequate funding and that all of the cuts will have significant consequences. He stated that without proper funding, all taxpayer services will be negatively impacted. He also said that if the IRS is provided with the necessary funds, service would greatly improve.
As part of this statement, Koskinen agreed that in-person and over-the-phone customer service with the IRS has been horrific. However, he states that the problem is not enough workers to handle the influx of calls or properly take care of walk-in customers.
During the meeting, even Republicans argued that the problem has more to do with bad choices being made by the IRS. As Mike Kelly from Pennsylvania pointed out, everyone in the country is working and living on less. As such, there has to be compromises when it comes to spending.
Congressional budget cuts are nothing new to the IRS. Since 2010, $1.2 billion has been cut but in addition, this government agency has faced stiff criticism in the past several years by a number of organizations that say its spending is wasteful. According to the new report, cuts to the IRS are being used to force it to better manage resources but to also stop all inappropriate activities immediately.
Although some cuts focused primarily on the area of customer service, the report also said that decisions pertaining to spending under control of the IRS caused there to be 16 million fewer taxpayers getting assistance needed for this filing season.
The Congressional panel also identified that employees were being given bonuses, debt owed by employees was not collected, union activities were conducted by staff, and more than $1.2 billion was used specifically to implement ObamaCare.
While the budget for helping taxpayers remained unchanged from last year’s tax season, there were a substantially larger number of people needing customer support. The number of phone calls answered by the IRS this season was 5.3 million compared to 6.6 million for 2013’s filing season. Even wait times had jumped to almost 35 minutes for phone calls going into the IRS from 18.7 minutes the prior season.