NTEU, lawmaker butt heads over IRS budget

The National Treasury Employees Union says a budget proposal for the IRS would cause \"damaging cuts.\" But Rep. Ander Crenshaw defens his subcommittee\'s propo...

A lawmaker and labor union are butting heads over proposed funding for the IRS.

The House Appropriations subcommittee on financial services released a draft proposal that would cut the IRS’ 2016 budget to $10.1 billion — $838 million below current funding levels. It’s also $2.8 billion less than President Barack Obama’s request.

The National Treasury Employees Union pushed back against the proposal, saying it creates “damaging cuts” for the IRS and makes it harder for the agency to meet its mission.

“Slashing the IRS budget … will further degrade its already impaired ability to provide taxpayers with the assistance they need and fairly enforce the tax laws enacted by Congress,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley wrote in a letter to members of the financial services subcommittee.

Kelley said NTEU is particularly concerned that budget cuts will hinder the IRS’ ability to root out tax fraud.

But Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), chairman of the subcommittee, defended the proposal.

“The allocation is sufficient to fund programs that are critical and essential to the federal government,” he said.

The bill authorizes funding for several areas of government, including law enforcement, justice, small business programs and tax collection. The brunt of the cuts are “borne by the [General Services Administration] and IRS since they are the two largest agencies in the bill and both have a recent history of inappropriate behavior,” Crenshaw said.

He mentioned alleged targeting of conservative groups for tax-exempt status and problems with customer service.

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson in April called taxpayer service “officially the worst since 2001.”

Because of staffing shortages, more than half of callers to the IRS were unable to reach a live operator and have their tax questions answered.

The proposal requires the IRS to make customer service a priority, according to Crenshaw. Although the agency would get less money overall, taxpayer services would receive $75 million more than its current budget, in an effort to “force the IRS to answer American taxpayers’ phone calls and mail,” Crenshaw said.

Kelley said the extra $75 million is not a true increase, but rather diverted from other IRS programs. She also called the funding “woefully inadequate.” The Obama administration’s request included an additional $252 million for taxpayer services.

The subcommittee’s proposal includes a laundry list of requirements for the IRS, including no funds for inappropriate conference and videos and careful consideration of bonuses for employees.


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