House Republicans Clash With IRS Over 2015 Filing Season

During an April 22 hearing of the US House of Representatives Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, Republican lawmakers raised concerns at issues arising during the 2015 tax filing season and the service offered by the Internal Revenue Service. On the day of the hearing, the Republican-led Ways and Means Committee released a new report on the IRS's "exceedingly poor customer service" during the 2015 tax-filing season. Despite the IRS's claim that its lackluster performance was due to budget cuts, the Committee said it had found extensive evidence that "the IRS deliberately cut funding for customer service that was fully under its control." "The findings are deeply troubling," said Committee Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R – Wisconsin). "At all times, but especially during tax season, the IRS should put the taxpayer first. But instead, the agency cut funding for the very customer service that taxpayers rely on." Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R – Illinois) added: "The IRS has blamed the decline in customer service on budget cuts. The amount of money Congress appropriated to the IRS for taxpayer assistance was the same this year as last year, but the level of service has decreased drastically. So what happened? The IRS made the decision to move money away from taxpayer assistance." At the same hearing, the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said the filing season had gone "relatively smoothly." However, he said he was "disappointed that, because of budget cuts, taxpayers did not get the customer service experience they deserve." He said "opening the 2015 filing season on schedule was a major accomplishment," given the additional preparation related particularly to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. He stated that the IRS's "low service levels were the result of the budget cuts we have had to absorb. Funding for the agency has been reduced by USD1.2bn over the last five years, [and] is now at its lowest level since 2008."He told the hearing that, as a direct result, the agency's "phone level of service at the start of the filing season was 54 percent, and dipped below 40 percent toward the end of filing season." Its target is 80 percent. With regard to the ACA, he confirmed that "early indications are that most taxpayers affected by its tax-related provisions – the premium tax credit and the individual shared responsibility payment – have been able to fulfill their filing obligations." He added that the IRS has made every effort to communicate with taxpayers and tax preparers about the ACA-related tax changes, beginning last year and continuing through the 2015 filing season, and had also worked on the necessary updates to tax software products to ensure that any taxpayers affected by the ACA tax changes would be able to prepare their returns as quickly and easily as possible.Source: