Monday, February 9, 2015

Morgan Griffith on the IRS

From Congressman Griffith's E-Newsletter. (I agree with him about the need to print paper-based forms. I don't think the problem is confined to the IRS; lots of people want to put things on the Internet and demand that customers pay the cost of printing them out. Unfortunately, citizens don't have the option of doing to the IRS what we do to businesses that refuse to mail out Real Catalogues...or writers who can't afford to publish Real Books...

"The IRS - Up to its Old Tricks?

As you probably know, tax return filing season is upon us once again.  January 20 was the first day of the 2015 tax season, the day on which the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began accepting tax returns.

The IRS has estimated that the average taxpayer spends roughly 13 hours per year preparing their taxes.  But this year, it might be even more difficult.

For those who fill out paper tax returns, you may in previous years have gone to your local library or your county’s Commissioner of Revenue to pick up your various forms and instruction booklets.  However, this year, the IRS is sending limited forms, and the agency is providing few free instruction booklets.

This is particularly troublesome for farmers who use the 1040 Schedule F form (the “Profit or Loss From Farming” form).  The IRS is providing printouts of this form, but we are told the agency is not printing its instructions.  We are also told by local officials that this form is used regularly.

Further, as reported last month by the Wall Street Journal, “Taxpayers are facing the worst service from the Internal Revenue Service since at least 2001, with more than half of callers unlikely to get through to the agency and average hold times of 30 minutes or more, according to a new government report.”

IRS forms and instructions can be found at www.irs.gov to be downloaded and printed, but it goes without saying that doing so is difficult if you don’t have internet access, as some in the Ninth District do not.  If this is the case for you, contact my office (see below) for assistance acquiring tax forms and instructions.

Some are arguing that cuts to the IRS’ budget are to blame.  A January 2015 story in the Washington Post reports that the IRS’ budget has dipped approximately 10 percent since 2009.

Notwithstanding this reduction, I would suggest a willingness to look for efficiencies in their offices ought to enable the agency to provide both good service and savings.

My first week in office, I voted to cut my budget by 5 percent.  From 2011 to 2015, we have had a reduction of approximately 13 percent to our overall budget.  Additionally, we have not spent an average of 10 percent per year during the 2011 to 2014 timeframe.

All this without making constituents pay the price.  Surely the IRS could do that as well.

I would submit to you that the IRS is once again attempting to punish the American people, instead of looking for ways to save American taxpayers’ money without shortchanging them on service.

Let’s remember, this is the agency that in the past spent money on spoof Star Trek training videos and expensive conference meetings.  These meetings cost around $50 million over three years – this at a time we were being told there was little fat in the budget.

Also, as you know, the IRS admitted to having inappropriately and improperly handled applications from conservative groups.

And in a report released last week, the agency’s inspector general said the IRS had rehired between January 2010 and July 2013 hundreds of employees despite past work troubles including having used their positions to access taxpayer information without authorization, having botched their own tax returns, off-duty misconduct, etc.

Are the IRS’ latest actions part of a backdoor attempt to again hit conservative groups?  I would like to think not, but the IRS has little credibility.  And farmers, who are usually conservative, seem to be negatively impacted.

While the current IRS seems to go after conservative people or groups, perhaps – under a conservative President – they might think they should use their power to hit liberal people or groups.  Neither is proper.  The IRS must be politically neutral.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that the IRS may be up to its same old tricks.  If true, the IRS cannot be trusted to look out for the best interests of the American people.

This rogue, now politicized government agency must be stopped.

My team has alerted House Appropriations about these concerns.  Actions will be taken.  Rest assured I will fight to see that the IRS is held accountable.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671.  To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.  Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives."