By Ken Berry
As if there wasn't enough controversy already swirling around the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – informally known as "Obamacare" – now the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reports that the IRS can't account for $67 million stashed in a slush fund intended to help enforce the law (TIGTA Ref. No. 2013-13-115).
In a provision buried deep within the massive legislation, the IRS was authorized to set up the Health Insurance Reform Implementation Fund (HIRIF). Approximately $1 billion in taxpayer revenue has been funneled into the HIRIF for use by the IRS. The IRS needed the funds to roll out enforcement mechanisms for the fifty or so tax code provisions affected by Obamacare.
TIGTA's September 18 report indicates that the IRS hasn't accounted for or attempted to quantify about $67 million of the HIRIF funds used for indirect ACA costs incurred during fiscal year (FY) 2010 through FY 2012. Furthermore, the TIGTA report zeroed in on several other abuses involving taxpayer funds, including the following:
- TIGTA identified thirty-eight IRS employees in two business units whose travel was charged to the HIRIF in FY 2012, but no portion of their salary and related benefits was charged to the HIRIF. Thus, there was no correlation between the travel reimbursements and the purposes of the fund.
- TIGTA estimates that spending in the slush fund cost taxpayers the equivalent of 1,272 new full-time IRS agents.
- The IRS requested an additional $360 million for FY 2013 as well as 859 more full-time IRS Obamacare enforcement agents. But these requests have not been met.
The IRS informed TIGTA that it would comply with the recommendations made in the report. Unfortunately, however, the HIRIF funds have already been spent. In other words, there's no real recourse at this time.