Union pushing back on proposed IRS budget cuts

Still, the union and others face a tall order in trying to combat cuts for the agency.

The union’s push comes as Congress appears to have completed another round of down-to-the-wire budget talks, with the House and Senate having paved the way to fund the government through mid-November.

Under that deal, IRS funding would be extended at fiscal 2011 levels, minus a 1.5 percent cut. In all, the agency was allocated $12.1 billion for the current fiscal year, which ends Friday.

The Obama administration had requested $13.3 billion for the IRS in its fiscal 2012 budget, but both chambers were last working with figures far below that level.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure this month that would give the agency $11.66 billion in the 2012 fiscal year. Meanwhile, House Appropriations has passed legislation allocating $11.5 billion to the IRS, or around $600 billion less than in fiscal 2011.

In congressional hearings this year, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman and other agency officials have said budget cuts would hurt their ability to close the tax gap — the difference between what taxpayers owe and what they pay. The agency estimated that the tax gap stood at $345 billion for 2001.

Shulman has also indicated that a $600 billion cut in his agency’s budget would lead to a loss of around $4 billion in tax collection — because of, among other things, less-efficient customer service and less-effective collection enforcement.  

At a hearing last week, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, noted that he was also concerned about the proposed cuts for the agency.

The IRS Oversight Board, which is largely appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, oversees IRS administration and management. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Shulman are also members of the board.