GOP warns IRS: Botched tax season is on you

Senate Republicans have a message for the IRS commissioner: It’s on you if this tax season is miserable for taxpayers.

{mosads}John Koskinen, the IRS chief, has warned taxpayers for weeks that services and protections will be scaled back this filing season, which came just weeks after Congress slashed the agency’s budget by $346 million.

But Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee say that the IRS can surely find savings to make life easier for taxpayers — by no longer giving bonuses to staffers with tax debts, spending less money on union activities and stopping work on new regulations governing political nonprofits.

“We will work to give your agency the tools it needs and reform our country’s tax code to make it simpler, fairer, and more competitive,” the senators, led by Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), wrote to Koskinen.

“In return, we hope you will work to better streamline your agency and avoid injudicious wastes of taxpayer dollars. We look forward to working with you in this endeavor.”

The letter comes just days before Koskinen will make his first appearance before the Finance Committee since Republicans took control of the Senate this month.

The current filing season was going to be trying for the IRS no matter what, as it implements its role in ObamaCare and a key law for cracking down on offshore tax evasion.

But Koskinen has said the budget cuts — IRS funding is now down to $10.9 billion, more than $1 billion less than in 2010 — will slow down the delivery of refunds to taxpayers. Those trying to call the IRS will have no better than a 50-50 shot of reaching someone, and taxpayers who do get their call answered will only get help on basic questions.

Koskinen also warned that the funding cut means that IRS information technology systems, which Koskinen said were already years behind, wouldn’t get updated, and that taxpayers would be at higher risk for identity theft.

As a last resort, the IRS commissioner said the agency might even have to shut down for two days this year.

“We’re very sensitive to the issue of trying to make sure that compliance for taxpayers goes as smoothly as possible in these contexts,” Koskinen told reporters this month.

Hatch and the other 13 Republicans on the Finance Committee say that the IRS currently spends $23 million a year on union activities, while a Treasury inspector general found that almost $3 million over two years went toward bonuses for staffers with conduct issues.

The IRS is revamping rules governing the 501(c)(4) organizations at the center of the agency’s Tea Party controversy, a step both Democrats and campaign finance reform advocates say is necessary.

But Republicans are moving to block those rules, and the GOP tax writers said Thursday that the billions that the IRS spends each year on information technology could be spread around more efficiently. 

Tags Orrin Hatch

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