By Deanna C. White
National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) President, Colleen M. Kelley, is understandably "pleased" that Congress finally put away its bipartisan bickering, allowing President Obama to sign into law December 23 a large scale omnibus spending agreement. The agreement will avert a "costly" government shutdown and fund government services for the rest of the fiscal year.
But even with the threat of a government shutdown put to rest, Kelley is still warning Americans that the reduced levels of funding embodied in the agreement will place an enormous strain on the ability of government agencies to fulfill their critical missions – particularly the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
"In the recently passed omnibus that funds federal agencies for fiscal 2012, there are several agencies that will face the year without the means to effectively serve our nation," Kelley said in a December 28 statement. "The IRS stands out as a department that will not have the resources it needs and, ultimately, it will be the American people that will suffer."
According to the NTEU, the 2012 omnibus includes a $305 million reduction in IRS funding from fiscal 2011 – a reduction that will negatively impact the services CPAs and other tax preparers are able to provide their clients.
"With the $305 million reduction from fiscal 2011 in IRS funding, the nation will see a decrease in the ability to crack down on tax cheats and the loss of billions of revenue annually," Kelley said. "However, for CPAs and their clients, the greatest impact will be seen on the ability to get the help they need in a timely and efficient manner as they attempt to navigate the increasingly complex tax code."
Kelley said she has repeatedly warned Congress that drastic cuts to the IRS would result in a degradation of tax services.
IRS Commissioner, Doug Schulman, echoed those same warnings in an October 17 letter to U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA), a ranking member of the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee.
"Schulman [said] that proposed cuts by Congress would have caused delays of up to five months in responding to taxpayer letters, including from taxpayers who have received an IRS notice about taxes due and are seeking to resolve issues with their accounts, and result in up to 50 percent of taxpayers seeking telephone assistance from the IRS being unable to reach the agency," Kelley said.
She added, "While the IRS budget in the omnibus was not as severe as what was originally proposed, it will nonetheless have serious consequences for CPAs and others relying on information and advice from the IRS as they address various tax code complexities during the upcoming filing season."
"In the end, this is a short-sighted budget cut that fails to serve the best interests of the American people," Kelley said.
The NTEU is the nation's largest independent union of federal employees, representing 150,000 bargaining unit employees in 30 federal agencies and departments.