IRS chief applauds Obama funding request

The new IRS commissioner said Tuesday that President Obama’s request for more funding for his agency would help the tax collector turn around sagging customer service efforts.

John Koskinen, the commissioner confirmed by the Senate in December, has for weeks said that increasing the IRS budget would be one of the overriding goals of his term.

Koskinen said Tuesday that the $12.5 billion sought by the White House would also help the IRS’s enforcement efforts – and thus help the agency’s efforts to collect unpaid taxes.

“Funding the IRS at this level will be a good investment for the nation, helping taxpayers get the service they need and strengthening compliance efforts in key areas, including identity theft, refund fraud and offshore compliance,” Koskinen said in a statement.

“Every dollar invested in IRS enforcement provides a strong return on investment in revenue collection, plus an added protection in deterring potential fraud. It also halts the decline in key enforcement personnel, and allows the agency to again invest in necessary basic infrastructure and training.”

The $12.5 billion request is a significant increase over the $11.3 billion the agency is currently receiving.

It’s also less than the $12.9 billion the White House requested for the current fiscal year. The IRS is now receiving hundreds of millions of dollars less than it did several years ago, even as its plate has become fuller with implementation of both Obama’s healthcare law and an important anti-tax evasion law.

The request also has little chance to gain traction in Congress, where Republicans sought decreases to the IRS budget even before the agency acknowledged unfairly singling out Tea Party groups.

In addition to funding for ObamaCare implementation, the White House budget also seeks more money for the IRS’s customer service efforts. Koskinen has advised taxpayers against using the IRS help lines, which only answer about 60 percent of calls.