Fire the IRS

As Stephen Moore at Fox News reports, the IRS has some big changes planned for for you in 2015. They’re finally going to eliminate all the scandals and abuse and become more accountable to the public! Hurrah!

No… I was just kidding. They’re going to be delivering even worse service than they already provide.

Complaining about belt tightening budget cuts, this week IRS Commissioner John Koskinen lectured: “People who file paper tax returns could wait an extra week—or possibly longer—to see their refund. Taxpayers with errors or questions on their returns that require additional manual review will also face delays.” It says it will cut enforcement efforts to root out identity theft.

Another IRS official went even further, suggesting wait times of at least half an hour to get through on the 1-800 help line. She warned that people who call in might want to bring some knitting, and that by the time you get through to a live human being, “you might be able to knit a sock.” And they call this a “help” line!

Moore does a fine job of explaining the staggering level of dysfunction here by comparing the IRS to any private industry business in the United States. If you consistently delivered poor quality of services and horrible customer support, and then went out to publicly announce that you were scaling back so things would be getting even worse, you would quickly find yourself in bankruptcy court and being driven out of the market space by your competitors. (Unless, of course, you happen to be Comcast or Time Warner.) This is because the IRS has a government mandated, iron clad, unassailable monopoly on the “market” in question. (Again, see Comcast / Time Warner, or nearly so.)

As a possible remedy, Moore suggests that the public hold the IRS accountable and demand the firing of Mr. Kostiken. Those are actually two separate tasks, and I would suggest that each is equally futile and/or impossible. If the endless Lois Lerner hearings proved anything to us, it’s that Congress is seemingly incapable of anything beyond public displays of frustration and bluster when it comes to the Internal Revenue Service. The scandals which “rocked” the agency over the last few years were of a nature which the reasonable observer could assume would have resulted in massive changes and the imprisonment of many principal actors. But for all the sound and fury which occupied the media for months and years on end, when all was said and done the main culprit was “punished” by heading off to a comfy retirement and the agency remained essentially unchanged. (At least until now, when it will get even worse.)

The IRS is not accountable because they mostly only answer to the White House, and if the Administration doesn’t pay grievances against the agency anything more than lip service, little can be done. You can’t just stop collecting taxes (as much as many of you will hate to hear me say it) or else the few necessary things the federal government does will cease to function. And you can’t make the system work any better for the customers without massive restructuring.

Say… didn’t I hear a bunch of candidates talking about systemic tax reform during the 2014 election cycle? And in 2012? And 2010? And for as long as some of our younger readers can even remember? I wonder what ever happened to that. Again.