Treasury Employees Hit Money Bill’s IRS Funding Cut

WASHINGTON –A planned large cut in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) funding will lead to longer telephone wait times for taxpayers who need their questions answered and see even more disabled and elderly taxpayers turned away from walk-in IRS offices, among other ills, Treasury Employees President Colleen Kelley says.
And that’s important because many taxpayers need help to comply with the complex tax code – and because IRS collections still account for 93 percent of government revenue.
Kelley objected to the IRS cut as the House Treasury Appropriations subcommittee worked on June 18 on its version of the money bill for Treasury, the IRS and other agencies for the year startingOct. 1.  The panel’s ruling Republicans made clear they have no love for the IRS, whose workers Kelley’s union represents.
The GOP majority cut the IRS to $10.95 billion, less than it spent in 2008, $341 million below this year’s figure and $1.5 billion less than Democratic President Barack Obama sought.  They also attached many bans on use of the IRS money, including yet another ban on the use of any money to implement the Affordable Care Act.  The GOP insultingly calls it Obamacare.
The majority, agreeing with the Obama administration and the congressional commit-tees overseeing the Postal Service, also voted to kill Saturday mail pickup and delivery.
“Essentially, the message of this bill is: We don’t care how long you have to wait on hold or whether you can get your tax questions or your correspondence answered,” Kelley said of the IRS provisions.  The measure “insults honest taxpayers,” she added.  NTEU is “greatly disappointed.” Even before the planned budget cuts, the IRS lost 10,000 workers in the last four years, hampering efforts to pursue tax deadbeats, Kelley noted.
“Almost 20 million phone calls from taxpayers went unanswered last year.  Those that did get through had long wait times.  Telephone hold times rose from 12.8 minutes in 2013 to 20.3 minutes during the first four months of 2014…Those who waited in long lines to get help in person, encountered service cutbacks.  For instance, IRS walk-in centers were forced to stop preparing tax returns for the elderly, low income taxpayers or taxpayers with disabilities.”
The Treasury money bill was one of several the dysfunctional Congress tackled in mid-June, just before lawmakers recessed for the July 4 holiday.  Other items of interest included:
The Obama administration likes the Senate version of the Transportation Department’s money bill – but not its ban on new rules to curb truckers’ driving hours.  Getting tired truckers off the road is a key Teamsters goal.  The administration agrees with the union on that.
“The bill would suspend the enforcement of the rule’s ‘restart’ provision, effectively boosting the number of hours a truck driver could work from the 70 hour maximum average on the books today, to 82 hours a week,” Obama’s Office of Management and Budget says.  “The current hours of service rules have been sought by the National Transportation Safety Board or many years and are now serving to prevent an additional estimated 1,400 crashes, 560injuries, and save 19 lives a year by reducing the risk of fatigue-related crashes, as fatigue remains a lead factor in the 300,000 crashes that occur each year.”
Lawmakers are demanding the Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative describe detailed measures to prevent importation of foreign goods where the other country – specifically China – got an unfair trade advantage by hacking into U.S. computers, including the Steel Workers’ computers, to find trade case data.
Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., co-chair of the Congressional Steel Caucus, originally wanted to put that demand into the money bill for the two agencies, but dropped it after congressional leaders agreed to work with the caucus to pressure the agencies for anti-hacker measures.
Murphy, caucus co-chair Mike Doyle, D-Pa., and other lawmakers want Commerce and the USTR to “continue their crackdown on trade crimes,” Murphy added.
Indictment of Chinese People’s Liberation Army computer hackers “proves we are losing manufacturing jobs not because the U.S. stopped making great products, but because the Chinese government is stealing ideas, inventions, and intellectual property straight out of western Pennsylvania,” said Murphy.  He represents a heavy steel-producing area south and southwest of Pittsburgh.
“For example, in 2010, as American factories were shutting down because of dumped and illegally traded Chinese pipe, Chinese agents were trying to cheat in court as well.
 The Chinese army hacked into computers at U.S. Steel and the United Steel Workers in 2010 to obtain privileged legal communications about the crucial unfair trade case then being litigated before the International Trade Commission on the oil country tubular gods from China,” Murphy explained.
A ban on IRS money for a proposed rule limiting the political activities of so-called “tax-exempt” groups, such as “social welfare” organizations established as conduits for hidden campaign contributions to Republican-oriented SuperPACs.  “The proposed regulation could jeopardize the tax-exempt status of many non-profit organizations and inhibit citizens from exercising their right to freedom of speech, simply because they may be involved in political activity,” the Treasury Appropriations subcommittee’s report on the bill says.
A ban on the IRS using money “to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs.”  The Republicans claim the agency was targeting Tea Party groups.  The subcommittee, in a nasty crack unsupported by evidence, also banned the White House from using any money “to order the IRS to determine the tax-exempt status of an organization.”
The subcommittee also wrote sections “to stop the IRS from further implementing ObamaCare,” including a ban on transferring money to the IRS for it and a ban on using IRS money “to implement an individual insurance mandate on the American people.”