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IRS Taxpayer Advocate Warns Cost-Cutting Measures Could Hold Unintended Consequences

By:
Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jan 6, 2016
Taxpayer Advocate NIna OlsonThe IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service warned in its annual report to Congress that forcing the service to do more with less may save money but could negatively impact the most vulnerable taxpayers. In particular, the TAS pointed to the IRS's plan to move most of its operations online, cutting phone and face-to-face service in the process, and to let more of its functions be handled through third party. These two factors, said the report, will combine into higher costs and lower compliance for taxpayers: many taxpayers do not have reliable Internet access, leading them to rely on private companies that may not necessarily have their best interests in mind, and even if their professionals are scrupulous, this still means they'll be facing increased costs relating to their tax filings. 

The report also raised caution over an anticipated increase in user fees from the IRS, raised to compensate for budget cuts, saying that while they may seem benign in a vacuum, they could erode taxpayer compliance. For instance, said the report, the IRS increased the fee to set up an installment agreement from $105 to $120 in 2014, and may increase it even further in the future. This would have the effect, said the report, of making taxpayers more hesitant to enter an installment agreement at all, as well as running counter to the service's mission of helping taxpayers meet their responsibilities and respecting taxpayer rights.