The administration is seeking roughly $1 billion in additional IRS funding that the agency says could improve customer service and step up enforcement work, resulting in billions of dollars in additional federal revenue.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen faced Republican skepticism, however, as he appeared before a House Appropriations subcommittee Thursday.
He said the IRS would continue to cut costs by shrinking its workforce while processing more tax returns. Budget constraints, he said, were forcing his agency to do fewer audits, costing the government $4 billion to $5 billion a year in lost revenue.
But Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, said the administration’s requested 9.3 percent funding increase was “unrealistically high” and that IRS plans were not making customer service a priority.
The hearing took place several weeks after Nina E. Olson, the national taxpayer advocate, provided another reminder of the problems facing ordinary taxpayers in her annual report to Congress. She expressed particular concern that budget pressures could lead the IRS to “substantially reduce telephone and face-to-face interaction with taxpayers,” forcing them to rely even more heavily on costly private assistance.
Lawmakers in both parties must work together to ensure that the IRS can both enforce the tax laws and provide assistance to taxpayers who are understandably confused by them.