Thursday, April 7 2016
Washington, D.C.—The 2016 tax season is proving, once again, that Congress must give the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) the resources it needs to improve taxpayer assistance programs, catch more tax cheats and criminals, fight the growing problem of identity fraud, and do a better job of enforcing tax laws and collecting more of the taxes that are owed, according to the head of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).
“As millions of taxpayers race to beat the April 18 deadline for filing their federal taxes, IRS employees are doing all they can to help them figure out what they owe so they can pay their taxes on time. But it’s clear that the IRS could and should be a lot more effective,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said today. “For that to happen, Congress must increase the IRS budget to an appropriate level. Otherwise, taxpayers will continue to be shortchanged.”
The $290 million funding increase Congress provided the IRS for fiscal year (FY) 2016 has helped somewhat, but there is still a long way to go, Reardon said. The IRS used some of those funds to hire 1,000 temporary employees to help answer phones. Commissioner John Koskinen said this uptick in hiring has helped the IRS answer about 70 percent of taxpayer calls, up from 38 percent last year.
“This clearly proves that investing in personnel pays off for taxpayers who need and deserve to get tax help over the phone,” President Reardon said. “Unfortunately, the call-answer rate will fall back below 50 percent once the temporary employees are let go. The IRS needs a significant investment in its operations.”
NTEU supports the White House’s request to Congress to increase the IRS budget by $1 billion in FY 2017. Reardon reaffirmed NTEU’s commitment to doing all it can to securing that budget increase.
According to data NTEU released today, between 2011 and this year, the IRS lost 22,808 full- and part-time employees nationwide—a 21 percent staffing cut.
On a state-by-state basis, between 2011 and 2016, the IRS job-loss rate was the highest in Delaware and Alaska—41.4 percent. Montana lost 39.2 percent of its IRS jobs in that five-year span, Hawaii 37 percent and Wyoming 36.5 percent.
In raw numbers, California lost more IRS employees than any other state in that five-year period: 3,776 people. Other hard-hit states were: Georgia with 2,051 IRS job losses; New York with 1,554; Texas with 1,397; and Utah with 1,346.
The IRS collects 93 percent of all federal revenue. But maintaining that level of revenue collection remained a major challenge for front-line employees due to staffing shortages, President Reardon said.
According to the IRS Data Book, since 2010 the agency has lost more than 6,000 enforcement personnel, revenue agents and revenue officers who perform audits and collections.
Commissioner Koskinen said recently that the IRS would be able to collect an additional $64 billion in tax revenue over the next 10 years if Congress approves the White House’s FY17 budget request for IRS enforcement programs.
In a speech earlier this month, President Obama said his administration is working hard to enforce tax laws authored by Congress but added that it gets tough “when the IRS is starved for resources and squeezed by the congressional appropriation process.”
“We’ve been saying this for years,” the NTEU leader said. “It’s time for Congress to pay attention to these warnings and give the IRS the resources it needs to better serve the American people.”
NTEU represents 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.