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Rep. John Lewis's Opening Statement at Oversight Hearing on IRS

February 5, 2014
Press Release

Good morning.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing.  I am pleased to welcome the new Internal Revenue Service Commissioner, John Koskinen, to the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee. 

Mr. Commissioner, you have a tough job ahead of you, and I want to thank you for accepting this challenge.  Please know that many of us want to work with you to address the financing, services, and staffing problems facing the IRS.

As you know, the recent omnibus funding bill provided $11.2 billion for IRS operations in fiscal year 2014.  This is a $1 billion decrease from fiscal year 2010.  I am very concerned about the unavoidable reality of these budget cuts. 

Today, there are thousands fewer IRS workers struggling to meet a heavier workload.  Now, it takes much longer for taxpayers to receive responses to their inquiries, and the backlog is not a dream -- it is grounded in cold, hard facts.  The IRS staff must process 5 million more individual returns and answer 15 million more phone calls with $1 billion less.  Let me say that again -- 5 million more returns, 15 million more calls, and $1 billion dollars less.  My friends, you can only get out what you put in, and you cannot get blood out of a turnip.

In particular, I am very concerned that the IRS’ long-standing practice of assisting low-income, elderly, and disabled taxpayers in preparing their returns has been discontinued because of these cuts. 

Why is this Congress so determined to balance the budget on the backs of the poor?  Enforcing tax laws, collecting taxes, and providing services to taxpayers are some of the most vital responsibilities of our government.  We cannot keep robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Congress cannot cut the IRS' budget and hope taxpayers will continue to receive the services they expect and rightly deserve.

It is not just the Commissioner who has called for more resources, but also the IRS Oversight Board, the Taxpayer Advocate, and the Treasury Inspector General.  When taxpayers cannot get the help they need and deserve from a federal agency, they turn to us.  I am hopeful that this Committee, and the Appropriations Committee will listen.  We must do everything in our power to support this agency and its staff. 

In closing, I would like to thank you for being here today.  I look forward to your testimony and working with you and the Members of this Committee to address these important and other issues.  Thank you, Mr. Commissioner; thank you, Mr. Chairman.