The IRS desperately needs money and staff | Remark

This is not a normal tax year for the Internal Revenue Service. As millions of American households scramble to meet the April 18 filing deadline, it’s easy to dismiss this as another tax season that causes temporary embarrassment and then fades into the headlines and out of mind. of most people. But there is much more at stake.

The IRS was currently limping without enough staff or funding. Congress, especially Republicans, has to face reality. The IRS still manually enters paper tax return information into its computer system because its technology is so outdated. There’s a huge backlog of more than 7 million unprocessed tax returns since last year, largely because the IRS doesn’t have enough staff and resources. Getting someone at the IRS to answer the phone is practically miraculous. These delays have caused serious hardship for families who are waiting thousands of dollars in repayment or who are trying to apply for loans but do not have last year’s tax returns.

It’s no mystery how the IRS has deteriorated. While the pandemic has certainly caused additional strain on the agency, the main issue is that Republicans have cut the IRS budget by about 18% over the past decade. It’s not belt-tightening, it’s emptying an agency. It’s no wonder that staff numbers have shrunk by 20% and the IRS now has the fewest auditors since 1953.

Having a fully functioning tax collection agency is fundamental to American democracy and economy. Taxes are the main source of funding for everything from the US military to Medicare and Social Security. Personal income taxes alone account for half of federal revenue. Fixing the IRS should be as urgent, if not more so, than rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges.

It’s telling that IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig, who was appointed by a Republican president, is begging Congress for more “stable, multi-year funding” so the agency can upgrade its systems. , tackle tax evasion and hire more staff.

Congress approved additional funding ($12.6 billion) for the IRS for the remainder of this fiscal year and gave the agency the ability to ramp up hiring, but that won’t be enough. The IRS doesn’t just need to overhaul its technology, it also needs to hire for thousands of positions now — and prepare for the fact that more than 50,000 IRS employees will likely retire in the next six months. years.

The Biden administration is rightly asking for a big increase for 2023 (a request of $14.1 billion). This is not a Democratic wish list item; it is about restoring the basic functions of the US tax collection agency.

IRS employees deserve applause for trying to do their best in a difficult situation, including lots of overtime. Encouragingly, as of April 1, the IRS has processed more than 89 million tax returns, up from 83.7 million at the same time last year.

But Amanda Walters, a tax examiner who was hired 18 months ago, summed up the situation at the IRS in simple but ominous terms. “I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, ‘That’s not the norm,'” Walters told the Post. “That’s my standard.” IRS workers – and taxpayers – deserve better.

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