IRS Chief Pleads for More Funding

IRS Chief Pleads for More Funding

House Hearings - Washington
Lamkey Rod/CNP/ABACA
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Friday, November 12, 2021
Welcome to the weekend! Get some rest because next week could be packed, starting with a White House infrastructure bill signing on Monday, a potential nomination for the Federal Reserve chairmanship, a possible House vote on the Build Back Better plan and, we’re betting, plenty more haggling over what ultimately gets in or gets cut from that bill.

Here's what you should know to end the week.

IRS Chief Makes a Plea for More Resources

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 (though independent estimates vary, with some projecting a smaller boost).

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.”

Number of the Day: 4.4 Million

In another clear sign that the Covid-19 pandemic is reshaping the labor market, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday that a record 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September. The unprecedented number of resignations, representing roughly 3% of the U.S. workforce, is happening for a number of reasons, but overall it suggests that the economy is improving, since workers usually quit their jobs to take better ones with different employers.

Although the job market is complicated right now, one thing seems clear: expectations have changed for millions of people. As The Washington Post’s Eli Rosenberg writes, “Many workers have made the calculation that their old jobs — low paying work in industries like restaurants, which have really struggled to fill holes — are no longer desirable, even as companies dangle raises and bonuses to lure employees back to the workplace.”

Quote of the Day

"The awkward fact is inflation is the job of the Fed. Biden should be focused on other things. That's not great political advice because people are upset about inflation, and they want the president to solve their problems. But the truth is, it isn't his problem to solve."

Harvard economist Jason Furman, who chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama, in a CNN article looking at the somewhat limited ways that President Biden could try to ease inflation.

Biden Taps Former FDA Chief to Lead the Agency Again

President Biden on Friday announced that he will nominate Robert Califf, who led the Food and Drug Administration during the Obama administration, to once again helm the agency.

“Dr. Robert Califf is one of the most experienced clinical trialists in the country, and has the experience and expertise to lead the Food and Drug Administration during a critical time in our nation’s fight to put an end to the coronavirus pandemic,” Biden said in a statement. “As the FDA considers many consequential decisions around vaccine approvals and more, it is mission critical that we have a steady, independent hand to guide the FDA.”

Califf will have to be confirmed by the Senate. He won confirmation in 2016 by an 89-4 vote, but Politico reports that he faces some resistance from Democrats: “Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — both of whom voted against Califf’s nomination in 2016 — have both signaled their opposition once again over concerns about his ties to the drug industry and the FDA’s track record on opioids.”

Read more at Politico.

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