Thousands of new Internal Revenue Service employees will not be shouldering the regulatory burden Obamacare rules have heaped onto the tax agency, despite IRS claims that it needed massive additional funding to hire such support staff.
Only 483 of the 9,245 new hires President Obama is seeking for the IRS in his 2016 budget proposal would be assigned to work on Obamacare programs, according to a budget summary published by the federal tax agency.
As the agency tasked with enforcing Obamacare’s individual mandate provision, the IRS must for the first time this year assess a fine against people who were eligible for the government-funded health insurance but declined to enroll.
The 11.29 percent increase in the IRS workforce would bring it to a total of 91,486, compared to its current 81,279 employee workforce, if Congress approves it as requested.
The huge requested increase in the IRS workforce was just one of multiple hikes in the tax agency's spending being sought by Obama. The request includes an 18.43 percent increase for the IRS investigations budget, 9.96 percent for exams and collections and a 13 percent boost in IRS regulatory spending.
Other spending increases sought by the agency for 2016 include 49.87 percent for information services, 30.75 percent for business systems modernization, 30.36 percent for operations support, 17.38 percent for infrastructure and 11.39 percent for shared services and support.
Most of the new hires requested by the IRS would focus on the agency’s effort to crack down on tax delinquency and fraud or ways to improve internal operations, according to President Obama's budget proposal for the federal tax agency for 2016.
Some of the new hires not hired directly for Obamacare-related work would be doing chores indirectly related to the health care program. For example, nearly 3,000 new employees would handle problems and questions from taxpayers — many of which will arise from confusing Obamacare rules.
The IRS made its push for $300 million worth of new “taxpayer services” staff even as the number of returns filed using only its website skyrocketed in the early days of this year’s tax season.
Although IRS Commissioner John Koskinen warned that customer service would plummet and people would not receive their refunds in a timely manner this year due to the $346 million cut in the agency’s 2015 budget, increasing reliance on IRS.gov for information and filing has actually allowed it to hand out more refunds this year than the same time last year, according to an IRS update made public Thursday.
Next year’s budget includes an additional $23 million to enforce tax rules for non-profits.
“It will enhance the streamlined application process for exempt organizations seeking tax-exempt status,” the budget request said of the non-profit initiative, which includes a proposal to hire 159 new staff to the tax-exempt team.
The agency’s tax-exempt division formerly headed by Lois Lerner continues to be the subject of intense congressional scrutiny as a result of the illegal targeting and harassment of conservative and Tea Party non-profit applicants in the 2010 and 2012 campaigns.
Lerner was cited for contempt of Congress by the House after refusing to answer questions from congressional investigators regarding her role in the illegal targeting. Officials in the Obama White House and the IRS have dragged their feet on providing documents sought by Congress, according to critics.
Overall, IRS officials requested nearly a nearly $2 billion budget hike in its 2016 direct appropriation proposal, for a total of $12.9 billion, compared to $10.9 billion for 2015.