Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Sunday, August 23, 2015
IRS, Could You Please Answer the Phone?
By Tom Yamachika @ 5:01 AM :: 4761 Views :: Taxes

IRS, Could You Please Answer the Phone?

by Tom Yamachika, President, Tax Foundation Hawaii

At the end of May, we observed in this space that the Hawaii Department of Taxation was having a rough time, only able to answer less than half of the phone calls it received. It turns out, however, that the IRS has had a much rougher time, and Congress, exhibiting unparalleled shortsightedness, is poised to hobble it even further.

According to the National Taxpayer Advocate’s midyear report, during the 2015 filing season the IRS answered only 37% of taxpayer calls, down from 71% in the 2014 filing season. The hold time for taxpayers who got through averaged 23 minutes, as opposed to 14 minutes last year. The number of times the IRS system simply hung up on a taxpayer on hold was 544,000 in 2014 but went up to 8.8 million this past filing season. The IRS also maintains a Practitioner “Priority” Service line for tax professionals who are trying to assist taxpayers. Those with “priority” weren’t much better off, as the answer rate was 45%, and the average wait time for the practitioners getting through was 45 minutes.

Part of the problem was this season was the first in which the IRS was collecting Obamacare penalties for taxpayers without health insurance, and giving premium tax credits for certain taxpayers who bought it. As with any new laws, taxpayers had more questions and needed more help. But the IRS’s funding was down about 17% on an inflation-adjusted basis as compared with fiscal 2010, and the House Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee voted June 11 to slash the IRS’s budget by another $838 million, or 7.7%.

The National Society of Accountants, a national organization of tax practitioners that is currently headed by Maui CPA/attorney Marilyn Niwao, is up in arms over these developments. “The tax system is breaking down, and these funding cuts mandated by Congress are a big part of the problem,” said Niwao. “IRS customer service is at an all-time low, and tax practitioners cannot get timely responses from the IRS for questions we pose on behalf of our clients because the IRS cannot afford the staff it needs to answer the phones.” Although there is a federal Taxpayer Bill of Rights, “these so-called ‘rights’ are meaningless if a taxpayer’s representative cannot get the information needed from the IRS because Congress has not appropriated sufficient funds to allow the agency to function properly,” Niwao said.

Last-minute tax law changes don’t help either. “Last year, a tax bill was enacted on December 19, giving no one – not taxpayers, tax return preparers or the IRS – sufficient time to learn about the changes in the tax law, or even get tax forms out in time for the beginning of the tax filing season,” Niwao added.

Although it might seem politically appropriate to punish the IRS in the pocketbook for its handling of such things as Tea Party tax exemption applications, crippling the agency that needs to take in the revenue needed to run government is a sure path to disaster. Short-sighted budget cuts will cost the government far more in lost revenue not only because it will have fewer resources to find the cheaters, but it will also be unable to provide essential help to the vast majority of taxpayers who are trying to be honest but who can and will make mistakes if they don’t know and can’t find the information they need to comply. We need to treat our taxing agencies – including the IRS and the Department of Taxation – like the essential units of government they are, and make sure they get adequate support for the job we are relying on them to do.



TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


Aloha Pregnancy Care Center


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii Military History

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Together


Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

July 4 in Hawaii

Land and Power in Hawaii

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

NRA-ILA Hawaii


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

School Choice in Hawaii

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii