The IRS commissioner goes to bat for more funding
A recent speech by IRS Commissioner Koskinen highlighted the challenges facing the IRS when dealing with its budget, congress, and public perception. Let’s face it: being the country’s tax collector will not win you many friends. And with budget cuts and dismal service, the IRS’ reputation with its customers continues to wane.
In a recent speech, Commissioner Koskinen passed on some interesting insight into the inner workings of the IRS and current challenges.
“It costs the IRS about 35 cents to collect $100. Now, if congress were to give us the $1 billion increase requested in the president’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2017, that means we’d be able to do more,” stated Commissioner Koskinen. “We estimate that the enforcement improvements we have planned would yield $64 billion over the 10-year budget window that’s commonly used.”
This budget increase has been a tough sell until recently. In December, congress and President Obama passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that included $290 million more for the IRS, a 3% increase from the last fiscal year. The goal of this increase was to improve customer support and confront cybersecurity. With reports of long hold times again this tax season and huge issues with tax refund fraud, the early results are not positive.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement, “Fully funding the IRS is important for individual taxpayers, the security of our data, and our ability to collect the revenue our country needs.”
The Internal Revenue Service would receive a 9 percent hike under President Obama’s fiscal 2017 budget. That increase would cover hiring 4,000 new full-time employees. Koskinen said, “Ultimately, audits depend on people, and we don’t have enough people.” So whether this increase is passed, it sounds like the commissioner believes the IRS still requires more funds.
IRS hold times have gotten so bad that a new startup, enQ Inc., has started selling positions on hold so customers can get in touch with a customer service agent without the wait time. The IRS did report that wait times were down to 9 minutes in the first week in March, a 57% improvement from last year.
The election year has made tax reform and the IRS a hot topic. Whether there is real reform or more business as usual, the task of collecting tax revenue will stay with the IRS for some time. Whether the organization get’s the political courage to make tweaks to the most commonly misused tax credits and technology holes remains to be scene. But no matter what, stay tuned, because the IRS has never been more under strain than today, with threats from hackers, the IRS email scam, and horrendous customer support.