There was a time when many a school board threatened to cancel the football season or disband the school band when its members sensed the voters might vote against the latest school bond measure. The threats were usually idle ones, but they often galvanized enough voters to put the issue over.
Voters are probably more savvy now and don’t fall this trick, but the head of the Internal Revenue Service, Commissioner John Koskinen, apparently doesn’t think so. When Congress last week, by way of the “Cromnibus” budget bill, reduced the IRS’s budget by $346 million (to a measly $10.9 billion), Mr. Koskinen wrapped the old School Bond Dodge in new clothing and announced that the budget cuts could very well result in delayed mailing of income tax refund checks. Not only that, but taxpayers who call in with questions will probably be dealt with by automatic telephone messages instead of human beings. (You know that drill: “All of our agents are busy with other customers.”)
The IRS is also moaning that its workload is expanding greatly now that it will play a role in the implementation of Obamacare. Taxpayers must report on their 2014 tax returns whether they have health insurance (so that those who don’t have it can be tracked down and charged Obama’s special tax). And those who are getting tax credits (subsidies) for the new health insurance will have to report these.
Commissioner Koskinen was a witness at more than one House of Representatives committee hearing about the excesses of the IRS in singling out for the delays and harassment several conservative non-profit organizations that had applied for tax-exempt. When asked questions about the recalcitrant Lois Lerner’s “lost” e-mails, Mr. Koskinen gave answers that were oh-so-polite airballs.
Just as the school board of yore wanted the voters to say “yes” to the bond issue, Mr. Koskinen’s aim is to get a supplemental appropriation added to the IRS budget.
He is hoping that many taxpayers will implore their elected Representatives and Senators to restore the cuts so these folks can get their refund checks and their questions answered on the telephone.
What the IRS needs, instead of a one-step-removed lobbying campaign, is more Congressional hearings and some serious investigations into its practices which, from various press reports, suggest that it needs to return to the days when it was considered tough, professional, and thoroughly non-political in the way it did business.
Even Mr. Koskinen wouldn’t disagree with that, at least not publicly. Privately, being an Obama appointee, he is likely to resist any such effort while continuing to lobby for more money.