Washington, D.C.—A House appropriations bill, which drastically slashes the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) budget below sequestration levels, condemns taxpayers to substandard service and increased wait times, the leader of the nation’s largest independent federal union said today.
The appropriations bill, which sets IRS funding back to 2008 levels, is set for mark up tomorrow by the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee.
“This bill punishes the 150 million individual taxpayers and the 10 million business entity taxpayers who are trying to comply with the tax laws and cannot get the help they need,” said National President Colleen M. Kelley of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).
“Essentially, the message of this bill is: we don’t care how long you have to wait on hold or whether you can get your tax questions or your correspondence answered,” Kelley said.
The bill cuts 2015 IRS funding by $341 million below current levels and $1.5 billion below the president’s request. Even before these cuts, budget issues have cost the IRS 10,000 employees over the last four years.
The NTEU leader pointed to testimony earlier this year by the National Taxpayer Advocate which graphically depicts the declining service levels for taxpayers as a result of inadequate funding whether they contact the IRS by phone, in person or by mail:
• Almost 20 million phone calls from taxpayers went unanswered last year.
• Those that did get through had long wait times. Telephone hold times rose from 12.8 minutes in 2013 to 20.3 minutes during the first four months of 2014. For tax professionals, it was even longer—an average of 32.5 minutes.
• Those expecting correspondence did not fare better. During 2013, the IRS was unable to process 53 percent of its adjustments correspondence within 45 days, its standard timeframe.
• And, those who waited in long lines to get help in person, encountered service cutbacks. For instance, IRS walk-in centers were forced to stop preparing tax returns for the elderly, low income taxpayers or taxpayers with disabilities. In 2004, IRS prepared 476,000 such returns.
The proposed funding cut will make a bad staffing situation even worse. For the last several years, employees leave without being replaced and morale continues to decline as workers struggle to keep up with the ever-increasing volume of work, the NTEU leader said.
“The IRS collects 93 percent of the revenue needed to fund the federal government and all the services it provides. Chronic underfunding of the IRS will have negative repercussions on our voluntary tax compliance system,” President Kelley stated.
NTEU is the largest independent federal union, representing 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.