“Hello, IRS? Are you there?”

Reportedly, the IRS hung up on 8.1 million callers looking for help during this tax season. Of course, they blame it on the cuts to their budget, but a report from the House indicates that the IRS had ample money but deliberated shifted funds away from customer service and towards such things as bonuses for IRS employees.  

The IRS’s head honcho Commissioner John Koskinen revealed this week during a congressional committee that by early April of this year, less than 40 percent of callers to the IRS actually received assistance.

Their phone system hung up 5 million calls – called “courtesy disconnects” – because the wait time would’ve been too long. Imagine being one of those callers who had a simple question and called several times to get an answer. This is an astronomical spike from the reported 360,000 dropped calls last year.

The Internal Revenue Service cut $134 million from customer-service spending to pay for other activities, according to a report from Republicans in the House. The decision to shift money away from dealing with customer issues toward other uses (including bonuses) sparked more criticism for the agency.  

ObamaCare placed major new responsibilities on the agency and added considerably to the reporting burdens of citizens. So this was a particularly bad time to decide not to answer the telephone.

Not surprisingly, the IRS is blaming everything on the House Republicans, who have led the way in probing the IRS targeting of tea party groups. Republicans point to the nearly half a million working hours a year IRS employees spend on union activities (while being paid by the taxpayer) as well as to $60 million in employee bonuses.

AP reports:

The IRS' overloaded phone system hung up on more than 8 million taxpayers this filing season as the agency cut millions of dollars from taxpayer services to help pay to enforce President Barack Obama's health law.

For those who weren't disconnected, only 40 percent actually got through to a person. And many of those people had to wait on hold for more than 30 minutes, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Wednesday.

A new staff report by Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee criticized the agency's spending priorities. The report said the IRS diverted $134 million in user fees that had been spent on customer service last year to other areas this year.

"It looks to me like you're purposely harming taxpayers," Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota told Koskinen at a hearing Wednesday.

Koskinen said the user fees were spent on computer upgrades to implement the health law as well as a new law requiring foreign banks to report information about U.S. account holders.

"The amount of money Congress appropriated to the IRS for taxpayer assistance was the same this year as last year, but the level of service has decreased drastically," said Roskam, who chairs the oversight subcommittee. "So what happened? The IRS made the decision to move money away from taxpayer assistance."

It does appear that the IRS is choosing how to use its funds inefficiently and to cause inconvenience to taxpayers. Prioritizing bonuses and union activity over customer support for taxpayers during the busiest time of their year and during the first year when the burdensome ObamaCare mandate kicks in, is akin to a toddler throwing a tantrum after not receiving what he wants.

Of course, the IRS thinks this kind of behavior is going to earn them a raise. If anything, however, such behavior reinforces our distrust of the powerful government agency.  

We acknowledge that ObamaCare is placing a greater demands on this agency, but that’s a reason to ensure that customers who are also facing the reporting burdens of ObamaCare can navigate the challenges the law imposes. The IRS hung up on our faces.