IRS Makes Plea for Upgrade to Improve Tax Collections
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers joined the Internal Revenue Service’s commissioner Wednesday in making a plea to upgrade the computers and staff that collect the nation’s taxes.
They said budget cutbacks and the coronavirus have resulted in shortcomings in the agency’s ability to enforce tax laws and return refunds to taxpayers.
“The IRS is critical to the overall well-being of our country,” IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig told the House Oversight and Reform subcommittee on government operations.
He added that the IRS faces challenges with its outdated computer systems and budget cutbacks that reduced its staff by 22%.
In addition, the coronavirus pandemic forced the agency to shut down call centers and Taxpayer Assistance Centers this spring and summer as many of its employees shifted to teleworking.
“We don’t have the ability and staffing to answer all the calls but we are doing our best,” Rettig said.
The IRS is phasing back its usual work schedule but Rettig told Congress the “reopening has been difficult.”
By late July, the IRS’s backlog of work included about 9.2 million returns awaiting processing and 7.9 million pieces of unopened mail. The mail consisted largely of tax returns and check payments.
Members of the subcommittee expressed concern the challenges of trying to eliminate the backlog might upset the IRS’s ability to prepare for the 2021 filing season.
“This does not sound like an agency fully ready to serve the public during a pandemic,” said subcommittee Chairman Jerry Connolly, D-Va.
He has co-sponsored a bill that would give the IRS much of the new technology the agency says it needs to process and audit tax returns. It still is pending in Congress.
Some of the computers use a form of the software language COBOL that dates from the 1960s.
However, he added computer upgrades alone would not make up for budget cutbacks that started 10 years ago, when revelations of lavish expenditures by top IRS officials prompted a backlash in Congress.
Since then, about 20,000 full-time IRS employees have been laid off.
Connolly said the hurt put on the IRS has come back to hurt the American public as the agency struggles to collect 96% of the federal government’s revenue, or $3.5 trillion per year.
“Unpaid annual taxes owed but not collected are estimated at $454 billion a year,” Connolly said.
In addition, about nine million Americans still are waiting for the $1,200 economic stimulus checks they were supposed to receive from the IRS last April.
His concerns were shared by Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee.
“This is a bipartisan issue,” Hice said.
Much of the IRS budget for information technology is spent on maintaining outdated systems, he said.
“They are going to require modernization,” Hice said.
In The News
WASHINGTON – The House passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in the wee hours of Saturday morning, helping President Joe Biden clear the first hurdle in passing an economic stimulus bill that includes $1,400 in direct payments to U.S. households, an extension of federal supplements... Read More
WASHINGTON -- A congressional panel wants to cut off funding for the kind of White supremacists who raided the U.S. Capitol building Jan. 6. They described the attack as the first of many against government targets unless they act promptly to stop them. “This threat is... Read More
Congress needs to create mandates to curb the abusive power exerted by a handful of online platforms, according to all six witnesses at a Capitol Hill hearing on Thursday. During the hearing, members of a House Judiciary subcommittee grappled with solutions to address the ability of... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Senate cloture rule might be the biggest Legislative obstacle in front of President Joe Biden’s policy agenda. Simply put, the cloture rule is a debate-limiting procedure that requires 60 Senators to agree before moving on to a vote. This rule is the only... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are ready to shove a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package through the House on Friday, despite a setback that means a minimum wage boost is unlikely to be in the final version that reaches President Joe Biden.A near party-line vote seemed certain... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-led House passed a bill Thursday that would enshrine LGBTQ protections in the nation's labor and civil rights laws, a top priority of President Joe Biden, though the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate.The bill passed by a vote of... Read More