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Opening Statement of Ranking Member John Lewis

May 7, 2014
Press Release

Subcommittee Hearing on the 2014 Tax Filing Season

May 7, 2014

(Remarks as Delivered)

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing.

Mr. Commissioner, thank you for joining us today, and congratulations to you and the IRS staff on a successful filing season. 

Over the past year, the IRS has dealt with many serious challenges.  I commend you for taking the time to go out into the field to visit and connect directly with IRS staff across the country.  Your thoughtful work and outreach has restored the morale of thousands of IRS employees, and I speak for many when I thank you for your efforts to tackle the serious challenges facing the agency.

As we all know, many issues remain; chief among them is the need to increase the IRS budget.  Last month, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a report that makes it clear that reducing the IRS budget has cut thousands of staff and hurt taxpayers. 

The agency sorely needs adequate resources in order to provide our taxpayers with the services they expect and deserve.  When you can’t answer the telephone for 20 minutes, our taxpayers hang up.  When you don’t get an answer to your letter for 30, 60, or even 90 days, you get aggravated.  Taxpayers deserve better.  They are hardworking Americans who need a functioning IRS and want to have faith in our government. 

For the very first time, the Affordable Care Act has opened the door for millions of Americans to access for health care.  This will mean more work for the IRS, and we need to make sure that the agency has all the necessary resources to do their part in a fair and transparent manner.

The Administration has requested $12.5 billion for the IRS fiscal year 2015 budget.  Although that may seem like a lot, the IRS is getting less funding today than they did in 2009.  And even if they were fully funded, which we know is unlikely, the GAO estimates this would only bring the IRS back up to 2012 staffing levels.

It is important to highlight that providing the IRS with the necessary resources also helps crack down on identity theft and tax cheats.  Last year IRS examinations of individual tax returns declined 5 percent, and collection activities declined 33 percent.  When we don’t fund the IRS’ enforcement efforts, we essentially endorse an unfair playing field and reduce compliance across the board.

Mr. Chairman, I am hopeful that this Committee can find a way to work together, and with the Commissioner, to provide the IRS with adequate resources and to make the IRS the best federal agency in the government.  Again, thank you for holding today's hearing, and I look forward to working together in a bipartisan manner for the good of our country and the good of all of our taxpayers.