IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has blamed the IRS’s “abysmal” customer service on congressional budget cuts — funding is down $1.2 billion from its 2010 peak — but a new congressional report points the finger back at the IRS. While congressional funding for the IRS remained flat from 2014 to 2015, the IRS diverted $134 million away from customer service to other activities.
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, even with budget cuts, the IRS could have had better customer service in 2015, but it chose to cripple its customer service budget anyway. Why? Why do you think? The IRS wanted to advertise its budget cuts in the most publicly compelling way. Instead of maintaining the same level of terrible customer service, they decided to go even one tier lower in order to manipulate taxpayers into voting for future increases in the IRS budget.
It’s kind of like what happened during the sequester. The federal government shut down its most public services in the most public way in order to convince the public how damaging the sequester was. Do you really think that most national parks and forests needed to be “shut down”? How much money do they really need to operate? The point was to convince the average taxpayer how monumental (no pun intended) the sequester really was.
So what did the IRS spend the money on instead? Here are a few things:
The report notes that Koskinen reinstated bonuses weeks after his appointment, has allowed IRS employees to spend roughly 500,000 work hours on union activities, and failed to collect delinquent taxes owed by federal employees. The tax agency has also been strained by Obamacare. According to the report, the IRS has spent “over $1.2 billion on the President’s health care law to date, with a planned expenditure this year of an additional $500 million.”
So … bonuses, union labor, and Obamacare. That’s worth another hour or two waiting to get disconnected from the IRS help line I was calling to talk to an agent about how much of my hard-earned money they’ll be taking from me. Right.