On January 13th, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen sent an email update to all IRS employees informing them of the current state of affairs for 2015. The language of the letter was very bleak, and rightfully so.
In July of last year, the Republican-led house passed measure 228-195, which (among other things) cut the IRS’ budget by nearly $1.5 billion for 2015. The Bill’s main proponent, Rep. Paul Gosar was ecstatic at its passage, claiming that it “will save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars”. Many analysts dispute this claim vehemently, stating that this measure will increase the nation’s deficit by up to $2 billion, nearly a wash in terms of raw savings.
It isn’t a wash for the IRS, though. In his aggrieved email, Koskinen states “we have no choice but to do less with less”. He proceeds to outline some of the major effects the cut will have:
Delays to critical IT investments of more than $200 million. Impact: This will hurt taxpayer service and cost-efficiency efforts as well as reduce outside contractor support for critical projects.
This means that new taxpayer protections against identity theft will be delayed.
The Taxpayer Advocate Service won’t be able to obtain a new case management system to oversee taxpayer hardship cases.
Aging IT systems will not be replaced, increasing the risk of downtime that affects taxpayer service and your ability to work effectively.
We will not be able to invest upfront money to gain future operational savings, such as moving to a shared cloud infrastructure and reducing data center space.
Enforcement cuts of more than $160 million. Impact:
Fewer audit and collection cases. Reduced staffing in enforcement will result in at least 46,000 fewer individual and business audit closures and more than 280,000 fewer Automated Collection System and Field Collection case closures
As a result of the hiring freeze, we will lose about 1,800 enforcement personnel through attrition during FY 2015.
The reduced enforcement staffing for just FY 2015 means the government will lose at least $2 billion in revenue that otherwise would have been collected.
Cuts in overtime and temporary staff hours by more than $180 million. Impact:
Delays in refunds for some taxpayers. People who file paper tax returns could wait an extra week — or possibly longer — to see their refund. Taxpayers with errors or questions on their returns that require additional manual review will also face delays.
Increasing correspondence inventories. We realize there will be growing inventories in Accounts Management, and taxpayer correspondence will face lengthy delays.
Taxpayer service diminished further over the phone and in person. We now anticipate an even lower level of telephone service than before, which raises the real possibility that fewer than half of taxpayers trying to call us will actually reach us. During Fiscal Year 2014, 64 percent were able to get through. Those who do reach us will face extended wait times that are unacceptable to all of us.
Extending the hiring freeze through FY 2015. Impact: As a result of the hiring freeze and assuming normal attrition rates, we expect to lose between 3,000 and 4,000 additional full-time employees. The total reduction in full-time staffing between FY 2010 and FY 2015 is expected to be between 16,000 and 17,000.
Commissioner Koskinen’s Letter
These substantial cutbacks could seriously derail some of the biggest changes to tax law of 2014, namely FATCA and the new rules on Tax Inversions. Will the IRS be able to handle the implementation of the new Legislation?