After the IRS scandal broke in early May, there was no doubt that Republicans would use it as a reason to drastically reduce the agency’s budget. As expected, House Republicans are doing just that. A new bill looks to cut the department’s funding from $12 billion to $9 billion a year – a 25% reduction. This is in contrast to the $1 billion raise that the President outlined in his budget.
There is no doubt the IRS screwed up. It targeted both Tea Party and progressive groups for more intense scrutiny in the approval process for (c)(4) status than it should have. Even worse, the agency singled out Tea Party groups more than progressive groups, making it harder for those organizations to gain 501(c)(4) status. None of that is okay and we need to correct it.
But that has nothing to do with the IRS’s budget. Subtracting money from the agency does nothing to correct the approval process. It just strains the department’s resources and creates the potential for more mistakes. What makes the House Republican’s bill most foolish though is that we should be increasing the IRS’s budget as the President has called for. In fact, increasing its funding saves the country money. The Treasury estimated in May (PDF) that its proposed budget increase would bring in six times that amount in additional revenue!
Certainly the IRS needs to combat waste within the agency – such as the $49 million it spent on conferences from 2010-2012. But squeezing the budget does nothing to directly combat this waste. The department can still fund those lavish conferences and just relax its enforcement. In the end, taxpayers lose (and those who skip out on their taxes win). If House Republicans really want to make the IRS more efficient, it needs to increase its oversight – as should be done anyways given the recent scandal. But don’t slash the budget simply because people hate the agency. After all, these are the same people who’ve been screaming about our budget deficit the last five years. Even though the IRS’s budget proposal reduces the deficit, I don’t hear them clamoring about it anymore.