Could It Be Worse than We Thought?

An explosive piece from ProPublica entitled “How the IRS Was Gutted” caught our eyes (and yes, we are aware that ProPublica is not known as a centrist organization). While the article is worth the read, we’ll outline a few attention grabbing statements:

1) “The last time IRS had fewer than 10,000 revenue agents was in 1953, when the economy was a seventh of its current size.”
2) IRS conducted 675,000 fewer audits in 2017 than in 2010.
3) Investigations of nonfilers dropped from 2.4 million in 2011 to 362,000 last year.
4) In 2010, the 10-year collection statute wiped out $482 million in tax debt; by 2017 “that figure had risen to $8.3 billion.”

We need to keep in mind that if one tortures statistics enough, they’ll tell you anything. For instance, is the definition of “audit” consistent (e.g., how are CP 2000 notices counted—and how should they be counted?), and how should one adjust collection dollar amounts for inflation—and did IRS assess taxes differently in 2000 than it did in 2007?

Still, the general arc is one with which enrolled agents are all too familiar—declining budgets, eroding customer service, and vilification of an agency essential to the functioning of our government.

As an aside, the observations from former Commissioner Koskinen themselves make the article a must-read.