March 19, 2015
Remember when IRS commissioners, both former and current, smirked when House Republicans tried to get to the bottom of Lois Lerner’s efforts to harass conservative groups applying for nonprofit status? Here’s a little free advice for them: Don’t deceive and diss the people who decide your budget.
Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen complained to Congress Wednesday that cuts to the IRS budget explain the agency’s poor customer service. The Washington Times reports the comish said that just 43 percent of taxpayer phone calls are being answered.
So how does he explain the previous 150 years of bad IRS customer service?
Koskinen said he’s had to cut 3,000 positions, leaving him with only … wait for it … 87,000 employees.
Oh, and he says Congress hasn’t provided him with any funding to implement his Obamacare duties—thank you, Republicans—and so he has had to yank at least $100 million from user-fee funding so the IRS can slap penalties on Americans who can’t afford to buy Obama’s overly expensive health insurance, or who just decide they won’t be cowed into obeying the government mandate to have coverage.
And yet Koskinen has the nerve to tell Politico the IRS will go forward with its efforts to harass nonprofit “social welfare” organizations—known as 501(c)(4) organizations—engaged in education and raising political awareness. The only concession he now makes is that the IRS will be “fair” about that harassment instead of almost exclusively targeting conservative groups. “If it’s going to be a fair system, it needs to apply across the board,” Koskinen told Politico.
But if he puts political partisans like Lois Lerner in charge, yet again, it won’t be fair.
Republican downsizing of the IRS budget is the right thing to do, but Koskinen has a point about the public’s need for guidance. However, that need is a result of the ridiculously complicated U.S. tax code.
Koskinen wants more money so he can hire more people to answer taxpayers’ questions. The better solution is to radically simplify the tax code so taxpayers have fewer questions. Reduce the number of tax brackets to two or three, dramatically lower the rates and eliminate most if not all tax deductions and credits. Ronald Reagan did it, and he had bipartisan support.
Koskinen also says that without more IRS employees more taxpayers will cheat on their taxes, costing the government money. But a simplified, streamlined income tax would make it harder to cheat and easier to catch those who do—requiring fewer IRS employees.
Both parties recognize the need for fundamental tax reform. President Obama wants to reform the tax code so he can take more money; Republicans want to simplify the system because that spurs economic growth.
Republicans are on the right path. Tax reform and simplification needs to be one of their top priorities. In the meantime, they should continue cutting the IRS budget until it hits … well, zero may not be realistic, but it would be a nice goal.
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