Last year the IRS hung up 544,000 times on taxpayers because the agency could not deal with everyone who needed information — a practice it bafflingly describes as “courtesy disconnects.”
That statistic was troubling enough. But this year the number of such hang-ups “skyrocketed” to 8.8 million as the agency struggled with additional work and inadequate funding, according to National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson.
For taxpayers who needed assistance, the 2015 filing season “was by far the worst in memory,” Olson says in a mid-year report to Congress. She reiterated her fears that low IRS funding and service levels could undermine a tax system that depends largely on voluntary taxpayer compliance.
While Olson has some suggestions for the IRS itself, she emphasizes that its funding is down about 17 percent since 2010 on an inflation-adjusted basis. And this year it received no supplemental funding despite an increased workload because of the Affordable Care Act and other legislation.
Lawmakers should carefully consider Olson’s report and determine the extent to which additional IRS funding could help taxpayers receive prompt and accurate assistance — which in turn could boost tax revenue and reduce federal borrowing.
On a broader scale, Congress should move forward on comprehensive tax reform that could simplify the tax code, cut unnecessary tax breaks, reduce federal deficits and promote economic growth.
2016 Objectives Report to Congress (National Taxpayer Advocate)
Press Release on 2016 Objectives Report (IRS)