Only three months ago, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told Congress that his agency needed a billion-dollar boost in budget funds to hire more auditors and enforcement agents. But now, Koskinen has announced that the IRS is getting ready to hire up to 700 new employees for enforcement purposes with or without a budget increase from Washington.
Naturally, House Oversight and Government Reform Panel Chairman Jason Chaffetz wanted to know more about this seeming contradiction. In a letter to Koskinen, Chaffetz demanded answers.
“The inescapable conclusion is that your testimony to Congress was inaccurate, reflecting either an attempt to exaggerate IRS’s budget needs or a management failure in understanding the needs of your organization,” Chaffetz wrote.
Rather than leave the door open for Koskinen to placate him with vague excuses, Chaffetz asked for details: Where did the money come from to hire 700 new employees? What are the actual hiring plans? What records were IRS officials using when they extended their hiring freeze just three months ago?
According to Koskinen, the money is now available due to retirements and turnover, but he has yet to be more specific.
For Chaffetz, this is about more than one odd discrepancy. Along with many other Republican lawmakers, the Utah rep has been watching the agency like a hawk every since it emerged that Obama was using the IRS to penalize conservative and Tea Party organizations. Somehow, the administration has managed to keep this scandal relatively quiet – a Republican president would have been strolling down Impeachment Blvd by now – but that doesn’t mean that lawmakers have forgotten. Chaffetz has long been pushing to have Koskinen, at least, kicked out of the top job.
But the problems with the IRS go beyond ideology. This agency – one of the least efficient in government – has systemic issues that can only be solved through dramatic simplification. A simplification of the tax code and a simplification of the impenetrable bureaucracy that makes the IRS immune to any serious accountability. Tax cheats are costing the federal government billions of dollars? Well how much are we losing to waste, fraud, and redundancy? Maybe instead of hunting down every taxpayer that took a debatable deduction, we should focus on the colossal inefficiency of the collectors themselves.