Imagine that a retail store or company like Best Buy or Home Depot announced that it has plans to slash customer service, that it will make people stand in lines for at least a half hour, and that any customer due a refund will have to wait several weeks.
Oh, and it may not be able to prevent identity theft.
That company would probably soon find itself in bankruptcy as shoppers fled to other banks or stores or restaurants where they can get first class service. That’s what America is about, and every businessman and woman knows the customer always comes first.
The Internal Revenue Service now says that taxpayers had better get used to shabby service from the tax collection agency.
The IRS is hardly an agency known for warm and friendly service to begin with. Complaining about belt tightening budget cuts, this week IRS Commissioner John Koskinen lectured: “People who file paper tax returns could wait an extra week — or possibly longer —to see their refund. Taxpayers with errors or questions on their returns that require additional manual review will also face delays.”
What’s more, the IFS will cut enforcement efforts to root out identity theft.
Another IRS official went even further, suggesting wait times of at least half an hour to get through on the 1-800 help line. She warned that people who call in might want to bring some knitting and that by the time you get through to a live human being, “you might be able to knit a sock.”
This they call a “help” line. There’s not much taxpayers can do about this because after all, the IRS is a government monopoly. You can’t file your tax return or have it processed by anyone else.
Congress needs to hold the IRS accountable and demand the firing of Kostiken because he has he admitted openly he can’t do his job.
The IRS is nearly an $11 billion a year agency with some 100,000 employees. Congress wants to cut its budget by less than 4 percent and the agency says it can’t function.
During the recession many businesses took cuts of 30 percent or 40 percent, and they did it by becoming more efficient and cutting waste. Meanwhile, the IRS has spent millions of dollars on conferences at exotic resorts for its employees with some suites costing $3,000 a night. And Koskinen says he can’t find places to cut.
The IRS has also been rocked by scandals of targeting, abusing and financially harming individuals and conservative groups it doesn’t agree with.
Maybe it could shut down that division and use those resources to help taxpayers. Instead of showing remorse the agency brass is petulant. The attempt to extort more tax dollars out of taxpayers is the so-called Washington Monument ploy, and Congress should demand an immediate private audit of the agency’s spending habits.
Washington demands full accountability and accuracy from tax filers, but the tax collection department is the least accountable agency of government. If the IRS can’t administer the tax code with 100,000 employees, it sounds like we need a new IRS and a new tax system.
Originally appeared in The New York Sun.