If the IRS isn’t covering up its discrimination against conservative groups, or trying to figure out how big the hacks of its systems are, then it’s demanding more money to do its job.
Once again, IRS chief John Koskinen is begging Congress for more money through the press. The agency is requesting $12.3 billion for 2017 with an extra $1 billion going toward fighting cyberattacks and hiring staff. Without the extra money, he claims that that they will be less vigilant against tax fraud and remain at risk.
That’s a scare tactic. The IRS has been at risk of cyber attacks for years and has probably suffered many more attacks than we or they know about. However, in light of last year’s massive data breach and scandal involving fraudulent returns, the IRS is trying to save-face. Before, the IRS experienced budget cuts was cyber security a priority at all?
Koskinen seems more interested in leveraging the media to paint the IRS as the victim against conservatives trying to hold someone responsible for their discriminatory practices and cover ups. His remarks made at the National Press Club had no limit to the finger pointing and scapegoating.
Federal News Radio reports:
“Ultimately, continued underfunding of the IRS threatens to erode its effectiveness,” Koskinen said. “My concern is that we’re getting dangerously close to that point.”
“It’s important for people to understand that our goal isn’t to get enough funding to perform the way we used to,” he added. “We are not going to build the IRS back to where it was in 2010, although it’s clear we do need more staff. We need to be looking forward to a new improved way of doing business.”
“To the average person, the IRS may seem almost like a vending machine: Put your return in, push a button and out pops your refund,” Koskinen said. “What I’ve been trying to remind Congress and the public for the last two years is that it’s a lot more complicated than that.”
Congress isn’t buying the sad story:
“If the IRS wants more solid and sustainable funding, then the IRS needs to show Congress and taxpayers that it can manage funding responsibly and administer the tax code objectively,” said Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), chairman of the subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.
In the meantime, we’re learning that it’s going to be a long tax season as slowed down in achieving its most basic and public function: processing tax returns.
The IRS took three times as long to process tax returns last year likely because of fraud prevention. The average return took 21 days to process compared to just 7 days in the past. A fraud prevention company says the IRS is taking fraud a little more seriously apparently:
“In this case, it’s extending the review time and doing verification and validations of the personal information, verifying the identity of the individual and ensuring that it’s a valid return. So from a federal government perspective, this is a good thing because it will decrease their fraud rates. It won’t eliminate them, but certainly they’re going to be experiencing less fraud,” Scott Olson, iovation’s vice president of product, said in an interview with Federal News Radio.
At least the IRS is altering its behavior in light of the legitimate threat of identity theft. Last year's tax season was terrible for the Americans who submitted returns only to find out that someone else had submitted a return and stolen the fraudulent tax check. The mess they went through in trying to verify their identity was not easy and many are still trying to recover.
This is not the end of Koskinen's whining nor of IRS woes, but we hope an positive steps are an indication of real change.