The House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee held a December 13 hearing examining the taxpayer experience with the IRS. The hearing was part of lawmakers’ efforts to reform the IRS, according to Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.
Continuous improvement should be a priority for the IRS, Buchanan said during opening statements. “For some perspective, in fiscal year 2016, the IRS collected more than $3.3 trillion dollars in taxes,” he added. Buchanan noted that the purpose of the hearing was not to criticize the IRS. Its purpose was to examine ways to improve its functionality in a bipartisan way.
Lawmakers and witnesses alike largely agreed that there has been a decline in taxpayer service. The dwindling IRS budget and resources were of particular focus among witnesses.
“Since 2010, Congress cut the agency’s budget by almost $1 billion,” ranking member John Lewis, D-Ga., said. “It is clear that the IRS does not have enough funding, staff, resources, or time to handle these significant changes in tax law,” he added.
According to Jennifer MacMillan, testifying on behalf of The National Association of Enrolled Agents, a lack of IRS resources and training are two significant causes for the IRS’s decline in taxpayer service. “In the last five years, the IRS budget has declined from $12.146 billion in 2012 to $11.235 billion in 2016. As a result, the number of revenue agents decreased 22 percent from 10,216 to 7,937, and the number of tax compliance officers decreased 28 percent from 1,154 to 832,” MacMillan testified.
MacMillan recommended that Congress increase the IRS’s budget, particularly with regard to hiring personnel. Likewise, other witnesses recommended that the IRS focus more on training personnel so that they are better equipped to assist taxpayers with compliance issues.
Additionally, MacMillan urged Congress to consider increasing the IRS’s budget to allow for the implementation of tax reform. “Taxpayers will need IRS guidance quickly and frontline employees will need to be retrained in all aspects of the legislation,” she said.
By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News Staff