Washington, D.C.—The omnibus appropriations measure unveiled by House and Senate negotiators for the balance of fiscal 2014 sets the stage for another difficult year for the nation’s revenue-producing agency, the leader of the union representing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees said today.
“Continued underfunding of the IRS means refunds will be delayed, taxpayers will sit on hold and tax help will be available to fewer and fewer Americans,” said President Colleen M. Kelley of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).
Overall, the NTEU leader said, “While the appropriations bill is a nominal improvement over another full year Continuing Resolution at current levels, it is woefully inadequate to allow agencies to deliver the critical services taxpayers expect and deserve.
Sequestration must end for the good of the nation.”
The measure provides roughly $200 million more for Customs and Border Protection over last year’s levels, not nearly enough to address the agency’s critical staffing needs.
The bill also provides a pay increase of 1 percent for employees under the wage grade system, a provision NTEU strongly supports. “Wage grade employees are among those most in need of this pay increase,” said Kelley.
The appropriations bill includes a nominal increase for the IRS over last year’s post-sequester levels. The impact of those cuts and sequestration forced the agency to shut down virtually all its operations for three days last year, resulting in multiple difficulties for taxpayers, particularly those seeking assistance.
Kelley added: “In the face of severe budget cuts and reduced personnel in recent years, what is needed is a true investment in the IRS, not more of the same.” Since 2010, IRS funding and staffing have been cut by 8 percent, despite a steady increase in the agency’s workload. Overall, from budget cuts and sequestration, IRS funding has been reduced by some $1 billion over the past three years, leading to a decline of more than 8,000 employees.
“The White House had it right,” President Kelley said, “when it proposed a fiscal 2014 budget of $12.8 billion for the IRS. This agency collects 93 percent of all government revenue,” she said. “It is the linchpin for the entire government, and it must have sufficient resources and staffing to do this critical job effectively.”
Last week, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson reported to Congress on the serious toll underfunding and insufficient IRS staffing is taking on America’s taxpayers. Among her findings:
• the IRS was able to answer only 61 percent of calls from taxpayers seeking assistance from a customer service representative—a number than left 20 million taxpayers unable to get through on the phone;
• an increase in telephone wait times from 2.6 minutes a decade ago to 17.6 minutes in 2013;
• an 86 percent drop in tax law questions answered, from 795,000 10 years ago to only 110,000 in the 2013 filing season;
• a cut of 87 percent, from $172 million in 2010 to just $22 million last year in employee training. At the same time, the number of individual tax returns grew from 131.4 million in fiscal 2004 to about 146 million in fiscal 2013, an increase of about 11 percent, with about one-third of it having occurred just since fiscal 2010.
NTEU is the nation’s largest independent federal union, representing 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.