IRS Gives the Boot to Private Tax Collectors

By Joe Davidson
Friday, March 6, 2009

Nothing is certain but death and taxes.

What's not certain is who is collecting your taxes.

If there's one thing you'd expect Uncle Sam to do for himself, it's collecting the money needed to run the government.

That's not always the case. The Internal Revenue Service hires private tax collectors to dun some of the folks who fall behind.

But no longer.

Last night, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman announced he is killing the program.

"I believe this work is best done by IRS employees," he said.

And there will be more of them to do the work. The IRS plans to hire 1,000 new collection personnel this year.

That's good news for Sam's tax collectors and his taxpayers.

In the parlance of Washington, collecting taxes would seem to be an "inherently governmental" function. As much as the IRS is the butt of jokes, it also has a reputation for being staffed by professionals who keep taxpayer information confidential, even from other government agencies.

When the IRS started using private collection agencies in 2006, that put them deep in the pockets and personal affairs of taxpayers.

"We're held to a different standard when it comes to protecting taxpayer information," Carla Thomas, an IRS employee, said between sessions at the National Treasury Employees Union legislative conference this week. "We could get written up, it could go in our evaluation. So, it's always in our best interests to protect taxpayer information."

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