Do More with Less
By Rep. Kristi Noem
April 24, 2015
This March, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen admitted that the IRS planned to ignore more than 60 percent of taxpayers’ phone calls during tax season. The statistic in and of itself is infuriating, but the decisions that led to this “abysmal” level of customer service, as Commissioner Koskinen called it, are inexcusable.
On April 22, the House Ways and Means Committee, of which I am a member, released a report showing the IRS deliberately diverted funding away from customer service – a decision that left millions of taxpayer questions unanswered.
More specifically, the IRS collects nearly $500 million in user fees each year. The agency has the flexibility to use this money as it sees fit. In FY2014, the IRS spent 44 percent of the user-fee account – or about $183 million – on customer service. These numbers are similar to previous years. But in FY2015, the agency expects to spend just 10 percent of the account on customer service – or $49 million. That’s a 73 percent reduction in one year.
Hardworking taxpayers deserve an answer from the IRS as to why the agency diverted so much funding away from serving taxpayers. I took it up with Commissioner Koskinen at a recent hearing and he responded by alleging the IRS’s poor customer service was Congress’s fault, as we had cut the IRS’s budget.
It amazes me that in the past the IRS has found millions of dollars to spend on extravagant conferences, training videos, and a Star Trek parody video while also dedicating countless resources to targeting organizations based on their ideology, but when it comes to customer service, the agency can’t find the funds. Yes, Congress scaled back the IRS budget, but those cuts have been reflective of the IRS’s waste and abuse of your taxpayer dollars.
Ultimately, I’d like to see a tax code that is much simpler – a tax code that wouldn’t require tens of millions of Americans to dial up the IRS for help filing their taxes on time. But until we can simplify the tax code, the IRS needs to reassess its priorities.
Across the country, families are doing more with less. Yet the IRS Commissioner brazenly said the IRS has “no choice but to do less with less.” I see it differently.
Just weeks after his appointment, Commissioner Koskinen reinstated a generous bonus program within the IRS that costs taxpayers $60 million a year. Additionally, IRS employees spend 500,000 hours – worth around $20.7 million in staff time – on union activities each year and the agency used $2.1 million to hire an outside law firm even though it has a legal division staffed with tax lawyers. Had the IRS not wasted this money and continued investing user-fee dollars into customer service, the agency could have answered 25.9 million more calls from American taxpayers. But its leadership chose differently.
The IRS needs to get its priorities straight. Taxpayers must come first