Washington, D.C. – Congress should reject the administration’s meager FY 2019 budget request for the Internal Revenue Service and instead provide the agency with the funding and personnel necessary to help taxpayers comply with the newly overhauled tax code, National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon said Tuesday.
“The lack of sufficient staffing has strained IRS’ capacity to meet its stated mission of providing America's taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities, and to enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all,” Reardon wrote in testimony submitted to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government for its hearing on the 2019 IRS budget.
The administration’s recommendation of $11.1 billion in base funding for the IRS next year is $295 million below current levels and would force the agency to shed another 5,800 frontline employees, including those who provide taxpayer service and enforcement.
The agency has already lost $715 million in funding and 22,000 full-time employees since 2010, but instead of reversing the decline, the administration’s proposal exacerbates it. The number of tax returns has increased by 15 million over the last seven years while staffing levels have dropped 24 percent, a perilous situation that has harmed the agency’s ability to adequately serve taxpayers.
For example, as NTEU, the National Taxpayer Advocate and the IRS Advisory Council have all pointed out, budget cuts make it harder for honest taxpayers to get the help they deserve; make it harder to catch the dishonest; and leave billions of dollars in taxes uncollected.
Data show there are 56 percent fewer customer service representatives than in 2010; the number of revenue agents and revenue officers has dropped by 7,700, and audit rates have declined to the lowest level in 16 years, at 0.6 percent.
“Without sufficient staffing to effectively enforce the law to ensure compliance with tax responsibilities and combat fraud, our voluntary tax compliance system is at risk,” Reardon wrote, adding that declines in the compliance rate lead to corresponding declines in revenue.
NTEU supported the decision by Congress this year to give the IRS $320 million of the $397 million requested to implement the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. But Reardon urged Congress to provide the additional $77 million next year to supplement taxpayer assistance, education and outreach and keep the agency from diverting resources away from upgrading the agency’s outdated IT infrastructure.
“We believe to ensure the IRS is able to continue making improvements in taxpayer services while handling a growing workload including the biggest change to the tax code in 30 years, it is imperative that the agency be provided with the resources and staffing necessary to meet these challenges,” Reardon wrote.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 32 federal agencies and departments.