Budget cuts at the IRS could delay tax refunds, reduce taxpayer services and hurt enforcement efforts, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Thursday.
About half the people who call the IRS for assistance this filing season won’t be able to get through to a person, Koskinen said. Once returns are filed, there will be fewer agents to audit them.
“Everybody’s return will get processed,” Koskinen told reporters. “But people have gotten very used to being able to file their return and quickly getting a refund. This year we may not have the resources, the people to provide refunds as quickly as we have in the past.”
In recent years, the IRS says it was able to issue most tax refunds within 21 days, if the returns were filed electronically. Koskinen wouldn’t estimate how long they might be delayed in the upcoming filing season, which is just a few weeks away.
Congress cut the IRS budget by $346 million for the budget year that ends in September 2015. The $10.9 billion budget is $1.2 billion less than the agency received in 2010.
The cuts come as the IRS is starting to play a bigger role in implementing President Barack Obama’s health care law. For the first time, taxpayers will have to report on their tax returns whether they have health insurance.
Millions of taxpayers who are receiving tax credits to help pay insurance premiums will have to report them as well.
Some Republicans in Congress have vowed to cut IRS funding as a way to hurt implementation of the health care law. Koskinen has said it won’t work.
He said the IRS is required to enforce the law, so other areas will have to be cut, including taxpayer services and enforcement.
Kosinen said the IRS is imposing a hiring freeze, except for emergencies, and is eliminating almost all overtime.
“In some ways, these budget cuts are really a tax cut for tax cheats,” Koskinen said. “Because to the extent we have fewer people to audit and enforce the tax code, that means some people cutting corners on their taxes or not complying are going to get away with it, and that is a decision that Congress has made.”
SOURCE: The Associated Press