Watchdog: IRS Can’t Handle Taxpayer Questions
Under normal circumstances, it would be easy to look at the state of the Internal Revenue Service and label it the most mismanaged department in the administration. In the age of Obama, however, it is right at home with the VA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Secret Service. Never mind the suspected scandal involving their politically-motivated attack on tea party groups. Now a government watchdog says the tax agency can’t even handle their responsibilities under the law.
According to Nina E. Olson, the current U.S. Taxpayer Advocate, the IRS will be able to respond to only half of the projected 100 million calls they receive between now and April 15. Considering this is the first year that taxpayers will have to contend with the confusing tax implications stemming from Obamacare, Olson expects compliance to suffer unless the IRS gets its act together over the next couple of months.
Even those taxpayers who are lucky enough to get someone on the phone may have to wait for 30 minutes or more to get an answer to even the simplest questions. And the “simplest questions” will be all the IRS is prepared to help with. According to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, congressional budget cuts have left the agency without enough resources to address taxpayer concerns on an individual basis. “It couldn’t be worse timing,” Koskinen said, referring to the cuts.
The cuts, as Koskinen sees it, are forcing the IRS to reduce many of their taxpayer services, limit the number of audits they can perform, and delay technology upgrades. He said they may even have to shutter their doors for a couple of days later this year when the money runs out. The cuts mean that the agency will no longer be able to help low-income taxpayers fill out their returns. He said it could also mean that people who file paper returns will see their refunds delayed.
The cuts are considerably less drastic than Koskinen is making them out to be. The total budget of the IRS is $10.9 billion for the year ending September 30. Congress cut their budget by only $346 million in the latest spending bill. And while Koskinen says that the cuts could actually wind up costing the government money by limiting their ability to enforce tax laws, many Americans are wondering if a more efficient IRS would be able to handle their responsibilities with the budget they have.
Besides the well-documented scandal involving right-wing groups and their tax-exempt statuses, the IRS ruffled feathers last year by rewarding employees accused of misconduct. After a report surfaced showing that IRS employees misused government credit cards and, in some cases, failed to pay their fair share of taxes, the agency awarded nearly $3 million in bonuses along with nearly 30,000 hours in vacation rewards.
If the argument for abolishing the IRS grows louder in 2015, who can be surprised?
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