Funding cuts for the internal Revenue Service (IRS) are harming low- and middle-income taxpayers. Today is the deadline to file income taxes, in what has been considered one of the worst seasons in years.
No federal agency is more detested than the IRS. However, it is one of the most important ones, as it collects the money needed for the government to work.
The agency’s operations have been weakened by cuts made by Congress in the past 5 years. They have been felt at every level, from collecting agents to administrative workers, and their impact has lowered the number of audits from 1.58 million in 2011 to 1.4 million in 2013.
The burden of these reductions is passed on to the average taxpayer. Those in the highest brackets have accountants who file their taxes, among other resources to lower and evade their obligations.
Average taxpayers pay the price because they need more help to fill out their forms and are more exposed to being audited.
For instance, the IRS estimated that, out of every 10 phone calls requesting assistance, 6 were never answered. The fact that Obamacare was included in the forms for the first time this year made it even more complex, and the taxpayers were left without support.
The figures also show that families with annual incomes below $100,000 are 17% more likely to be audited than in 2010. For taxpayers with the highest incomes, the chances have decreased.
The fact that the IRS has fewer personnel increases the number of errors made in the automated processing of the simplest types of tax forms, causing more automatic audits. Likewise, there are limited employees available to review more complex submissions.
Republicans pushed for these cuts, whether because they think the IRS singles out Tea Party taxpayers or simply because, in their view, the agency feeds a government that is too big. Whatever the reason, their actions result in wealthy taxpayers who are audited less frequently than those who just get by. That is not right for the taxpayer nor for the nation’s finances, which are being damaged by tax evaders.