Jordan Candler / April 23, 2015

Did the IRS Intentionally Provoke Customer Service Woes?

Remember when federal agencies were ordered to intentionally manipulate the impacts of the government “shutdown” to take political advantage? The Internal Revenue Service is apparently stealing from the same playbook. Commissioner John Koskinen testified that stringent budget cuts by Congress have hampered the agency’s ability to adequately handle certain functions, like customer service. Just recently the Treasury’s inspector general found that before March 7 nearly 4 in 10 customers who called into the agency never reached a representative — a drastic spike from the 1-in-10 ratio of a decade ago — and those that did waited an average of 25 minutes. A headline from The Hill described it as “IRS service worse than expected,” but a new report suggests the abysmal service was self-inflicted — and potentially strategically implemented.

Here’s how: “While congressional funding for the IRS remained flat from 2014 to 2015, the IRS diverted $134 million away from customer service to other activities,” reports John McCormack of The Weekly Standard. “In addition to the $11 billion appropriated by Congress, the IRS takes in more than $400 million in user fees and may allocate that money as it sees fit. In 2014, the IRS allocated $183 million in user fees to its customer service budget, but allocated just $49 million in 2015 — a 76 percent cut.” In other words, the agency could have helped more Americans with our complicated tax-filing system but instead diverted funds elsewhere (perhaps toward targeting conservative groups?). At best, it’s government inefficiency, and, at worst, the agency is caught in more malfeasance. Considering its track record, forgive us for assuming the latter. More…

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