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.

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"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 HatchPhRMA CEO 'hopeful' Trump officials will back down on drug pricing move Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing Trump praises RNC chairwoman after she criticizes her uncle Mitt Romney 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 WydenSenate Dems introduce bill to keep DACA info private Congress should elevate those trapped in the gap – support ELEVATE Act IRS shutdown plan fails to quell worries 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 PortmanUSDA to recall more than 9,000 furloughed workers to provide farm aid Senate Dem introduces 'Stop Stupidity' act to end government shutdowns Senators look for possible way to end shutdown MORE (R-Ohio) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government Ex-Sen. McCaskill joins NBC, MSNBC Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party 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.