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In recent years the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting groups for extra scrutiny and abuse based on their political views favoring limited government, lower taxes and accountability. According to the President of the United States “there were some boneheaded decisions,” but “not even a smidgen of corruption” was involved. As we noted, IRS boss Steve Miller shrugged off the targeting scandal as “horrible customer service.” There may be some truth to that, and as the April tax deadline approaches, Joe Davidson of the Washington Post has been keeping watch for signs of improvement.
By his count “nearly one-third” of U.S. taxpayers can’t get the IRS to answer their calls. The current 70 percent answer rate for this season, after a budget increase of $290 million, is up from a paltry 38 percent last year, so as Mr. Davidson has it, “mediocre starts to look good.” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen expects an answer rate of 47-50 percent. “That’s terrible service,” Davidson laments, yet an improvement over the “abysmal” 37 percent last year. Abysmal might also apply to IRS performance in other ways.
As we noted, in 2013 the IRS gave out more than $13 billion in improper payments. Between 2010 and 2012, the IRS handed out $2.8 million in bonuses to 2,800 employees with disciplinary issues and tax compliance problems of their own. The IRS also sent 23,994 tax refunds to a single address in Atlanta, including 8,393 refunds deposited to a single bank. On the other hand, back in the 1980s, the IRS promoted employees based on how much money they had seized. This was contrary to IRS policy but carried on at a high rate.
The Internal Revenue Service wields enormous power and by Mr. Davidson’s count, collects $3.3 trillion every year. The IRS has taken on mission creep, as in the targeting scandal, but in its duly appointed tasks provides taxpayers with mediocre service at best. As the tax deadline approaches, the IRS makes a strong case that government waste, fraud and abuse have been institutionalized.