NTEU warns against the loss of IRS jobs, revenue

Wednesday - 10/12/2011, 7:44pm EDT

Emily Kopp, reporter, Federal News Radio

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With the IRS facing more than $450 million in budget cuts, the union representing division workers is hoping the public might have some sympathy for taxpayers' least favorite government agency.

"Most American citizens are not thinking about what would happen if there is less money to fund the fill-in-the-blank agency that they and their family depend on, whether it's about school lunches, social security benefits or health services," said Colleen Kelley, the National Treasury Employees Union president.

Maybe the public pressure will encourage Congressional negotiators to find more money in the fiscal 2012 budget for tax collection and auditing services, Kelley told reporters Wednesday at the union's Washington headquarters.

"This is the open window between now and the [continuing resolution] coming up on Nov. 18," said Kelley. "We want to have all this information out there and the facts in hand so whatever the opportunity is to have this corrected, that could happen."

She said the IRS is facing a more dramatic budget cut than other agencies.

The Senate appropriations bill would slash IRS funding by more than $450 million. The House version would cut $600 million.

"Cuts of this magnitude would be substantial and affect all of IRS operations, from answering taxpayer operations on the phone to compliance activities such as audit coverage," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman during a June hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Appropriations.

He estimated that the cuts would force the division to furlough or otherwise slash 4,200 jobs and reduce revenue collections by $4 billion annually.

"If the IRS has to lose 4,000 positions, I believe they're going to have to look across the entire IRS at enforcement as well as customer service as well as support," Kelley said. But, she added, "We have had no indication from the IRS of what they would cut."

She said the NTEU would encourage the IRS to offer buyouts rather than reductions in force. It had talked with the division in general terms about the job cuts, she said, but had not gone into detail because they remained hopeful that lawmakers would amend the budget bill in conference.

"The budgetary circumstances this year have stymied the committee's ability to address critical needs of the IRS as it has historically done," said Senate subcommittee chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in a written statement last month. He said the committee regretted the impact on IRS activities and acknowledged that taxpayer service would suffer.

A new law limited the amount of money his subcommittee and its House counterpart can appropriate to the IRS. Lawmakers used to tap money that the Security and Exchange Commission made on transaction fees to fund the division. The Dodd-Frank Act, meant to boost oversight of Wall Street, says SEC revenue must be spent only on the SEC.

That gave the subcommittees $547 million less to work with, Durbin said in his statement.

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