Spending bill draft makes another round of cuts to IRS

An early draft of a fiscal 2017 spending bill aims to deliver more severe cuts to the Internal Revenue Service and would prevent the agency from enforcing provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

The funding bill, which passed the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, would cut the IRS’ budget by $236 million below its current FY 2016 budget and by $1.28 billion less than what President Barack Obama outlined in his FY 2017 budget proposal.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations committee, cited extravagant conference spending by the IRS between 2010 and 2012 as grounds for slashing the agency’s budget.

“Instead, the bill directs IRS funding to where it’s needed the most: taxpayer services,” Rogers said during Thursday’s markup.” That’s sufficient for the agency to fulfill its core duties, and would encourage the agency to streamline and use every dollar to its fullest potential.”

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Rogers added that $290 million of the IRS budget is specifically appropriated for the agency to spend that money on customer service, cybersecurity and fraud prevention.

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents more than 150,000 federal employees, said in a letter that the cuts would worsen the IRS’ already-struggling customer service.

“IRS employees around the country continue to work diligently despite seeing their workloads increase and the resources to do their jobs shrink dramatically. The additional cuts proposed in the bill cannot be absorbed without further degrading IRS’ ability to provide critical taxpayer services and enforce the nation’s tax laws,” NTEU president Tony Reardon said in his letter to the committee.

Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the majority’s plan to cut IRS funding “shows that they still don’t grasp the consequences of their actions.”

“Cuts made by Republicans to the IRS’s budget since 2010 have resulted in terrible customer service, outdated technology, and the lowest level of audits in a decade. When Congress last year increased the IRS’s budget for customer service, not surprisingly, customer service improved. We should restore the IRS’s funding, not continue to cut it,” Levin said in a May statement.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), the subcommittee’s chairman, said the legislation also challenges the General Services Administration to reduce the federal government’s real estate footprint by reducing its funding by $951 million below what it received in fiscal 2016.

“We continue to push the GSA to develop an accurate inventory of the federal [real] property, and we designate funding for the GSA to use existing space a little more efficiently and a little more effectively,” Crenshaw said.

The bill provides GSA with $9.2 billion overall out of the Federal Buildings fund, and made substantial cuts to the agency’s funding for new construction.

The bill also provides $200 million for construction of the FBI’s new headquarters. Congress approved $390 million in the 2016 omnibus package that passed in December 2015.

The President’s fiscal 2017 budget proposal requested $1.4 billion for the headquarters project.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the appropriations committee, said the IRS cuts would allow more tax cheats to go undetected and would prevent the public from accessing tax assistance.

“These cuts have a big impact on the quality of service the IRS provides to taxpayers and practitioners,” she said.

Lowey also sounded off on the bill’s proposed cuts to infrastructure.

“The bill only partially funds the new headquarters for the FBI, [and] does not fund the next phase of the Department of Homeland Security’s headquarters, further delaying the ability to consolidate our homeland security apparatus into one location,” she said.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) protested the bill’s cuts, but also praised a number of “good government” provisions that made it into the draft.

One would task the Office of Management and Budget to work more closely with agencies to reduce payouts to deceased beneficiaries, which costs the government hundreds of millions every year. Another proposal would link agency performance plans with their annual budget proposals to Congress.

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