Thanks, Obama! Wait, no, seriously—that’s who Republicans really are blaming for the massive shortage in customer service help from the IRS this season, during which hang-ups on the IRS’s tax helpline rose from 360,000 last year to 8 million in 2015.
Image: AP Photo/J. David Ake
The AP details a new report on these “courtesy hang-ups,” which occur when the IRS hotline is so overloaded with waiting callers that it disconnects new ones, and which happened with exponential frequency this year. It’s just the latest detail in the IRS’s ongoing struggle with technology, for which it has an absolutely terrible reputation.
There’s actually a very clear reason why: The IRS’s budget has been slashed by Republicans in Congress, who are still pissed because of the revelation that the IRS specifically targeted conservative groups in 2013, and who are using the IRS to work against the new health care law.
Basically, Republicans are needling the IRS in any way they possibly can, and that includes cutting its budget, complaining about how much time agents spend on union organizing (which is mandated by law), and a new report that says the IRS is failing its taxpayers, in part because of the new health care law.
The argument goes that the IRS, by having to spend much more of its budget implementing the new system for checking whether citizens had health care last year and fining them if they did not, is neglecting its other duties. And it’s true that the IRS had to spend a lot on developing this new system—almost $1.2 billion, according to the AP.
But that ignores the fact that while Republicans argue the IRS is failing because it has to spend money on the health care law, they are slashing its budget aggressively. “Republicans in Congress adamantly oppose Obama’s health law, so some have been working to starve the IRS of funds just as its role in implementing the law ramps up,” says the AP.
That leaves the IRS with a choice: Either implement the new health care law by cutting the customer service budget, or ignore a federal law. Which isn’t actually a choice at all.