“If the IRS wants to see an increase in its budget, it probably should stop harassing conservatives,” Americans for Tax Reform spokesman John Kartch told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “They used their resources in a completely inappropriate and political way that has basically ruined the reputation of the agency on the Hill.”
Congress cut the IRS budget by $346 million in the 2015 spending bill, reported Politico, and the agency has absorbed about $1 billion in cuts since 2010. It’s one of the only agencies whose budget was cut this year.
“[The cuts] are a logical response to the stewardship they’ve had with the resources they’ve been given,” Kartch said. “They’ve been given certain resources to implement the mission of the agency, and they’ve used them to harass Tea Party organizations. They’ve used them to harass conservative taxpayers. They’ve basically politicized the entire Cincinnati office for several years.”
Commissioner John Koskinen has already announced a hiring freeze and suspension of overtime hours, and said Thursday the most recent cuts could shut the agency down temporarily.
According to Politico, Koskinen said, “People call it furloughs. I view it as, Are we going to have to shut the place down? And at this point, that will be the last thing we do … but there is no way we can say right now that that won’t happen.”
The cuts come as the IRS prepares to take on new responsibilities implementing Obamacare, and in the face of a mandatory government-wide pay raise Koskinen said will cost $250 million.
Kartch accused Koskinen of trying to extort Congress by purposely absorbing the cuts in a politically painful manner. In addition to the shutdown, Koskinen has warned taxpayers refunds could be delayed this year.
“They have a mandate to implement [the cuts], but the resources that they allocate is up to them,” Kartch said.
But Alan Viard, a budget and tax policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, said across-the-board cuts won’t fix the problem and are likely to hurt taxpayers.
“I’m very concerned about what the IRS did on the 501c4 applications by the tea party groups, and so it’s quite proper to try to stop that type of abuse or make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Viard said. “But just cutting the agencies overall funding is really not a good way to do that.”
Viard suggests a more targeted approach, such as clarifying 501C4 laws or reassigning certain responsibilities to other agencies, rather than the easier option of spending cuts.
“It really backfires by harming ordinary taxpayers who still have to comply with the complicated tax code Congress has imposed upon us,” he added. “Having given us this complicated tax system, I think it behooves Congress to try to give the IRS the resources to administer that system.”