Playing to the frustration Americans often feel around tax-return season, many lawmakers last week targeted the IRS with criticism and an array of proposals with little chance of becoming law.
The House passed several measures during what some Republican lawmakers called “IRS Week.” One proposal, for example, would prohibit employee bonuses at the agency until Treasury Secretary Jack Lew develops and implements a broad customer service strategy.
As some tax experts and Democratic lawmakers point out, however, the IRS for years has faced increased workloads with reduced funding and staff. Agency officials acknowledge lost revenue and sharp declines in customer service but largely blame inadequate funding.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in February that budget constraints meant fewer audits, costing the government $4 billion to $5 billion a year in lost revenue. He reminded lawmakers last week that his budget is down 17 percent from five years ago.
Congress has a responsibility to ensure that the IRS has the resources necessary to assist taxpayers, counter fraud and collect money owed to the government.
In complaining about the tax system, lawmakers often skip lightly over the fact that they wrote the complicated tax laws in the first place — or have at least have failed to change them. So Congress should also be working on reforms that would simplify the tax code while making it more efficient and growth-oriented.
IRS Fights Back Against House Republicans’ Attack (N.Y. Times)
Interview on Tax Reform with Robert L. Bixby on Tax Reform (Orlando Sentinel)
IRS Must Be Able to Explain, Enforce Tax Laws (Concord)
National Taxpayer Advocate Delivers Annual Report to Congress (IRS)