IRS $80 Billion Spending Plan Lacks Key Details Needed for Taxpayers

NTU Foundation President Pete Sepp shared the following statement in response to the release of the Strategic Operating Plan for the $80 billion in supplemental appropriations the IRS received last year:

“We appreciate that broad outlines of the IRS’ spending priorities are being shared with the public, even as this Strategic Operating Plan is now well behind schedule. Last year’s $80 billion supplemental appropriation to the IRS was the largest one-time taxpayer investment in the IRS in its history; as such, the IRS and Treasury Department must consistently engage in robust dialogue with Congress and expert stakeholders outside government to ensure that investment is made wisely..

To that end, we see today’s Strategic Operating Plan as a starting point in the IRS’ engagement with the public, not a brief stepping stone for the IRS before it proceeds on a self-guided modernization journey. The Plan unfortunately lacks key details that are critical to taxpayers and their advocates, such as specific quantitative goals for improved service, how the IRS will better measure and assess the tax gap, and how the IRS will square its expanded enforcement objectives with taxpayer rights and due process. We look forward to engaging with IRS and Treasury officials, and members of Congress, over the next several years to ensure the agency is making prudent and proper use of these supplemental appropriations. If spent wisely, the IRS could use these funds in the coming years to revitalize its customer service efforts, modernize its decades-old information technology infrastructure, and provide enhanced digital services for taxpayers that reflect a true 21st century institution.

We also urge the IRS to exercise caution with its supplemental enforcement funds. Reducing the tax gap remains an important public policy mission, but doing so in a way that disregards taxpayer rights and due process – or ensnared  innocent taxpayers or those who made honest mistakes – would result in more harm than good, further eroding public trust in the IRS. As National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins recently stated, ‘[t]he most efficient way to improve compliance is by encouraging and helping taxpayers to do the right thing on the front end. That is much cheaper and more effective than trying to audit our way out of the tax gap one taxpayer at a time on the back end.’

The IRS, the Treasury Department, and Congress should spend the next several years engaging with taxpayers, practitioners, the business community, the non-profit community, academic experts, and other stakeholders who can offer valuable perspectives and insight on how the IRS can most efficiently and effectively use the $80 billion in new investments it received last year. Failing to engage with these stakeholders, or acting in a silo, will threaten the service and modernization gains policymakers have promised to oversee at the IRS.”