The comprehensive spending bill lawmakers unveiled Monday does not provide enough funding for the Internal Revenue Service to fulfill its mission, according to the union that represents the agency’s employees.
The measure would provide more funding for the IRS than the agency received after the automatic budget cuts of 2013, known as sequestration, but the spending levels would be lower than in previous years.
“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,” National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley said in a statement Tuesday.
Kelley added that the agency’s staffing levels in recent years have declined while its workload has increased. She also noted that the agency’s budget has been reduced by $1 billion over the past three years.
The new appropriations bill would largely continue the IRS’s sequester-era spending levels, with the exception of an additional $92 million for enhancing taxpayer services and addressing refund fraud, identity theft, and overseas compliance.
Overall, the IRS would receive a total of $11.3 billion, representing a reduction of $526 million compared to the agency’s pre-sequester level for 2013.
The bill would not designate funds to help the IRS pay for its new obligations under the Affordable Care Act, which include enforcing the individual mandate and providing tax subsidies for people who qualify for assistance in purchasing health coverage.
Additionally, the measure “prohibits funds to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs or to target citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights,” according to an outline from the House Appropriations Committee.
That provision appears to be a political statement, since the government doesn’t set aside money specifically to target groups for their beliefs or to infringe on their rights. It addresses actions the IRS apologized for last year, before an inspector general determined that the agency had inappropriately screened certain advocacy groups based on their political leanings.
The spending bill also prohibits funding for “inappropriate videos” and requires reporting on IRS spending, training and bonuses, according to the committee’s summary.
Those provisions respond to an inspector general’s report that found that the IRS had spent lavishly on a 2010 training conference in Anaheim, Calif. The event included “Star Trek” parodies that cost the agency at least $50,000 to produce.
A recent analysis from the IRS’s in-house watchdog found that the agency’s service to taxpayers is suffering. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson said in her report, issued last week, that the IRS could only answer six in 10 phone calls from taxpayers seeking help in the last fiscal year, for instance.
Olson echoed calls from the NTEU for greater IRS funding, saying the agency could benefit from more training and spending on enforcement, the latter of which is provided in appropriations bill.
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