Republicans grumble about IRS delays they helped create and refuse to help fix

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President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan would have boosted hiring and modernized technology at the Internal Revenue Service.

Congressional Republicans are complaining that the understaffed Internal Revenue Service is struggling to process a backlog of tax returns. But they bear much of the responsibility for decimating the agency and refusing to address its problems.

"The ongoing IRS return processing backlog and related customer service failures have reached crisis levels as the new filing season approaches," wrote Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack on Friday.

"6 million," tweeted Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. "The number of unprocessed individual tax returns at the IRS as of Dec. 23, the most recent date for which data is available on the agency’s website. @playbookdc More dysfunction by Biden administration."

"It's time for the IRS to get their act together and get Americans the help they need," said Indiana Sen. Todd Young.

"Biden and Congressional Democrats pushed through $6 trillion in spending in 2021 – but did not allocate one dime to alleviate the historically high IRS backlog," claimed Florida Rep. Gus Bilirakis.

But he and every other congressional Republican had the chance to help address the problem and refused to do so.

President Joe Biden's $1.75 trillion Build Back Better package included $79 billion over the next decade for the Internal Revenue Service. Much of it would have gone to stepping up enforcement, but billions of dollars would have gone toward improving operations support and taxpayer services.

"The framework will create a fairer tax system through transformation investments in the IRS: hiring enforcement agents who are trained to pursue wealthy evaders, modernizing outdated IRS technology, and investing in taxpayer service, so regular Americans can get their questions answered and access to the credits and benefits they are entitled to," the White House explained in an Oct. 28, 2021, statement.

Bilirakis voted against passing Build Back Better, as did every other House Republican present. With 220 Democratic votes in favor, the bill passed the House, but with unanimous GOP opposition and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) unwilling to agree to that version, it got held up in the Senate.

Congressional Republicans also spent most of the past decade doing their best to kneecap and even abolish the IRS entirely.

In 2010, fueled by the anti-tax tea party movement, Republicans gained 63 seats and a majority in the House of Representatives. They remained in the majority until after the 2018 midterm blue wave.

While in control, Republican lawmakers publicly attacked the IRS, falsely accusing it of bias against conservatives.

They cut IRS funding by about 20%, costing the agency more than a fifth of its workforce. According to the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the number of operations staffers dropped by 31% over that time.

These workforce reductions, along with a lack of investment in basic infrastructure such as working photocopiers and printers, caused last year's tax return and refund backlog, according to an interim report published by a Treasury Department inspector general in May 2021.

Even after that, GOP legislators railed against Biden's proposals to invest more in the IRS, falsely claiming that doing so was "socialist" and would target the poor with more tax audits.

Experts estimate that by spending $40 billion more on agents to crack down on tax evasion by wealthy Americans, the U.S. government could collect more than $100 billion over the next decade in money already owed under the current law.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.