Obama seeks funding spike for the IRS

President Obama is seeking a sharp increase in the IRS’s budget, trying to reverse years of cuts in the country’s revenue agency.

ADVERTISEMENT

The president’s new budget calls for giving the IRS $12.9 billion in fiscal 2016 — roughly an 18 percent increase over the $10.9 billion that Congress approved for the agency in the current fiscal year.

John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, and the nation’s taxpayer advocate have said that the recent budget cuts — the agency is currently getting more than $1 billion less than in 2010 — have made life more difficult for average Americans trying to comply with the tax code.

Taxpayers, IRS officials say, now face long wait times on the phone and no better than a 50-50 shot of getting their call answered. The agency also says the budget cuts have weakened its ability to fight fraud and identity theft, and that its information technology systems are hopelessly behind.

In its new budget, the Obama administration makes it clear it has listened to those concerns, saying the increase in funding would go to improving taxpayer services and improving online options for people trying to pay their taxes or find out the status of their return.

The administration also made the case that a strong IRS is good for the middle class, the strengthening of which has been the key theme for the new budget framework.

“Reforms to the business and — especially — international tax system depend on an IRS that is capable of going toe-to-toe with high-paid tax lawyers and accountants to enforce the law and make sure corporations, the wealthiest, and ordinary American workers all play by the same rules,” the administration said in the budget.

But like much of its new framework, Obama’s proposal for a spike in IRS funding is likely to find little sympathy among congressional Republicans.

GOP lawmakers are still investigating the IRS’s singling out of Tea Party groups, which the agency first acknowledged more than a year and a half ago. They have accused the IRS and Obama administration of being less than forthcoming with Congress.

Koskinen is scheduled to testify about the IRS’s budget before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday in his first testimony there since Republicans took over the chamber.

Republicans on the tax-writing panel chided Koskinen last week for blaming the agency’s decreased funding for the decline in taxpayer services. The GOP lawmakers said that the agency could easily find savings elsewhere in its budget, including by not giving bonuses to staffers with known conduct issues.