House Republicans on Thursday criticized the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) requested budget for fiscal year 2017, expressing concern that the agency is prioritizing implementing ObamaCare over taxpayer services.
“Sometimes it’s hard for us to take seriously this budget request when the IRS again asks for an unrealistically high amount that doesn’t make customer service a priority and fails to adopt some of the good government reforms that we added,” Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) said at a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee that he leads.
Less than 20 percent of the proposed IRS budget increases are for taxpayer services, cybersecurity and identity-theft protections, which Crenshaw said should take precedence.
“Each year we learn that customer service diminishes,” he told IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “You may argue it’s because the IRS budget has been cut, but I’m going to argue that it’s because the IRS chooses to spend its funds in other areas like the Affordable Care Act, bonuses and conferences.”
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) described three key problems he has with the proposed budget for the IRS.
The first problem Rogers laid out is that the budget request includes an adjustment to spending caps, which is not allowed for the IRS under statute. The second is that it includes spending additional funds to implement ObamaCare, but Congress has repeatedly rejected funding increases for that purpose. And the third is that it eliminates administrative provisions that Congress has included in past spending bills, such as provisions aimed at preventing the IRS from targeting groups because of their political beliefs or making inappropriate videos.
Rogers said that funding for taxpayers services has been increased in two of the last three years and nothing in recent bills has explicitly reduced funding for customer service.
“The mandate we want you to have is to serve the public and you’re not doing that,” Rogers told Koskinen.
Koskinen said that last year, the IRS had to cut the amount of user fees it spent on customer service due to budget cuts.
He said the funding boost the agency recently received will be a step forward. Customer service will be “noticeably different” this year, though it will not be at the IRS’s ideal level, he added.
Koskinen also said that the agency takes statutory mandates like those relating to ObamaCare seriously and has to implement them even when they’re unfunded. When money isn’t provided for implementing congressional mandates, the IRS has to use money from other places.
“When the Congress gives us a requirement, we do it,” he said. “It’s a highest priority.”