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Werfel Tells Congress Members of IRS Improvements; GAO Says More Are Needed

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Oct 25, 2023

The IRS is making good use of the funding allocated to it by the Inflation Reduction Act, Commissioner Daniel Werfel said in a congressional hearing.

The agency is dramatically improving its customer service for taxpayers and starting to realize returns on its boosted enforcement of high-earning individuals and corporations, Werfel told a joint meeting of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Government Operations and the Federal Workforce, and Health Care and Financial Services subcommittees, Government Executive reported.

"Ensuring a high-performing IRS is critical for our nation, as the agency collects more than $4 trillion in revenues each year, generating about 96 percent of the funding that supports the federal government's operations—everything from roads and other infrastructure to education and the nation's military," he said in his prepared statement. He added that the IRA is helping to “[a]ddress the growing risk of tax scams and schemes by protecting honest taxpayers from them and rooting out the nefarious actors that perpetrate them.”

Republican lawmakers expressed doubt IRS would deliver on its promise not to increase audits on those making less than $400,000 per year, according to Government Executive.

“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle believe more money and more power is the solution," said Rep. Lisa McCalin (R-Calif.). "The IRS needs stronger leadership, not more money and not more audits."

One of McCalin’s colleagues, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), said he wanted to continue to engage with the commissioner on how the agency will deploy its new funding and “how that’s going to aid and do the things that would be necessary.” 

“We need to make sure the IRS in its performance does its job,” he said, according to Government Executive. “We need to make sure they are properly funded.”

Jessica Lucas-Judy, the director of strategic issues at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), also testified at the hearing about a new report on the IRS's opportunities to address its longstanding challenges.

"IRS's mission is to provide American taxpayers with top-quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities," she said in her opening statement, Accounting Today reported. "As part of taxpayers' efforts to meet their tax and filing obligations, IRS receives a great deal of personal and financial information about individuals and businesses. Taxpayers must have confidence that IRS properly protects their personal and financial information."

Lucas-Lundy testified about the IRS's longstanding struggles to provide timely answers to taxpayer questions, address delays processing tax returns, hire and retain critical staff, and protect sensitive information from unauthorized users.

The GAO made a number of recommendations to the IRS to address various issues in service and processing, data safeguards, and IT, according the report. The IRS generally agreed with the recommendations and has taken action to implement many of them, but others still need to be fully addressed, according to the report. The suggestions include improvements in digitizing information, workforce planning, and increasing contractor oversight, among others. The GAO has also previously made recommendations to Congress that remain unaddressed.

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