IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post this week containing a simple request: We need more money.
“Over the past decade, the IRS budget has been decimated,” Rettig says. “Today’s historically low level of funding means that the agency is not equipped to provide the American people the service they deserve or to fully enforce the tax laws against those who evade them.”
Despite collecting more than $4 trillion last year, or roughly 95% of the country’s total revenue, the IRS is in a state of crisis, according to Rettig. Its workforce is the same size it was in 1970, even though the population has grown by more than half since then and the economy has become much more complex. The agency has just 15,000 people to handle the 240 million calls it received in the first six months of 2021, and the number of auditors is at a low not seen since the 1940s.
The IRS has also been tasked with a wider range of responsibilities, including the distribution of relief checks and tax credit payments for millions of families. And, in a further strain on resources, wealthy taxpayers have become both more numerous and more sophisticated in their efforts to dodge the taxes they owe.
As a result, audits of households earning more than $1 million have dropped by 60% over the last 10 years, and an estimated 15% of all taxes owed goes uncollected each year.
The solution, Rettig says, is for Congress to approve the Biden administration’s proposal to increase IRS funding by $80 billion over 10 years, an investment that the White House says could bring in $400 billion in additional revenues.
The money would help hire more people to man the phones and field the millions of taxpayer requests each year. It would allow the IRS to develop a sophisticated online system with individual accounts for each taxpayer. And it would provide the resources to significantly reduce the rate of noncompliance while deterring cheating, helping to shrink the “tax gap” — the difference between what is owed and what is paid each year.
“This long-term investment would help build the modern IRS that Americans deserve,” Rettig says. “The funding proposal offers a historic opportunity to help the IRS help others. Congress must act.”