Senators criticize Trump budget request for IRS

Senators criticize Trump budget request for IRS
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Key senators from both parties criticized the Trump administration's budget request for the IRS on Wednesday, expressing concerns that the agency would not receive enough money under the proposal for taxpayer services.

Trump's fiscal 2019 budget proposes $11.135 billion in base funding for the IRS and also calls for an additional $362 million in a "program integrity cap adjustment" for enforcement and operations support. The base funding level is lower than the enacted level for fiscal 2017, but the request for the IRS including the cap adjustment is about 2.3 percent higher than the level for that year.

Funding for taxpayers services would go down under Trump's budget by 8.7 percent compared to fiscal 2017 and by 4.6 percent compared to the annualized level for fiscal 2018.

"The administration, in its budget, has proposed additional cuts to funding for the IRS. I think that is a mistake," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchLighthizer to testify before Senate next week as trade war ramps up Senators introduce bipartisan bill to improve IRS Senate panel advances Trump IRS nominee MORE (R-Utah) said at a hearing. "While I’ve had quite a bit to say over the years about the allocation of resources at the IRS, now, directly after passage of a major overhaul of the tax system, is not a great time to further reduce the taxpayer services budget of the agency that will do most of the work in implementing the updated tax code."

The top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight House passes measure blocking IRS from revoking churches' tax-exempt status over political activity Senators introduce bipartisan bill to improve IRS MORE (Ore.), said that "denying the IRS the resources it needs to be an effective agency impedes its ability to serve the American people, and the Trump administration knows it."

Other Senators on the committee, including Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanUS to provide additional 0M in defensive aid to Ukraine Senate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Bipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure MORE (R-Ohio) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillPolling analyst: Same Dems who voted for Gorsuch will vote for Kavanaugh Pollster: Kavanaugh will get Dem votes Overnight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices MORE (D-Mo.), also expressed support for giving the IRS additional resources for taxpayer services.

Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter said that "some difficult decisions had to be made" with the budget and decisions were made to increase funding for technology and enforcement. 

“That came at the cost of taxpayer assistance,” he said.

Kautter later noted that he'd expect the percentage of callers to the IRS who get through to a representative would go down under the budget.

After the hearing, Kautter told reporter's that the senators' worries about the cuts to the taxpayer services budget was a "fair concern."

Separately from the budget, the IRS is requesting $397 million over two years to implement the new tax law.

Kautter said that 73 percent of that request would be for technology and hardware, 19 percent would be for taxpayer assistance and outreach, 4 percent would be for guidance and remaining amounts would go to items such as creating and revising new forms.