Federal Employees News Digest

NTEU criticizes cutbacks in FY 2019 IRS budget

The Internal Revenue Service continues to be underfunded—as it has been for years according to the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents thousands of IRS employees—and the union is decrying the situation once again this tax season.

“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,” NTEU President Tony Reardon wrote in a recent submission to Congress.

The IRS had 92,148 full-time employees back in 2010, and they had to deal with processing approximately 230 million tax returns.

By the end of 2017, the agency’s full-time staff had fallen to 70,573 people—a far smaller pool of employees tasked with administering some 15 million added returns.

The IRS is slated to suffer an additional $295 million in cuts below its requested budget for next year, the union president noted, with spending coming in at $11.1 billion. 

“Without additional funding to meet the expected rising demand, taxpayers will continue experiencing a degradation of services, including longer wait times to receive assistance over the telephone and increasing correspondence inventories,” Reardon wrote.

Chronic budget cuts

“The deal is this: The IRS has been underfunded for years, forever at this point,” Ken Warren, a political scientist at St. Louis University, told FEND. “Audits are at this point rarely carried out. But a really close inspection shows the chances of your being audited hasn’t changed that much, from year-to-year, at least not recently.”

“The formula on audits is kept secret, really,” he added.

The union noted that the administration indeed has projected with reduced staffing levels, service levels will drop even further. For example, phone service, which was available to 75 percent of those who attempted in 2018, will drop to about 47 percent availability with the cost cutting over the next year. 

In fact, customer service personnel—including in person, online and telephone – has dropped 56 percent, representing the culling of some 12,000 fewer tax professionals available to answer questions.

NTEU, in a press release, points out that such a cut is at odds with the goal of “implementing the largest rewrite to the tax code in 30 years.”

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Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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