by Casey Harper, the Center Square
(The Center Square) – The Internal Revenue Service has been under fire for delays and millions of backlogged returns, but now lawmakers are raising the alarm after the federal agency “destroyed” millions of Americans’ tax documents.
Republicans on the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig this week asking for answers about why these records were destroyed.
“The intentional decision to destroy these documents – which the IRS would need to ensure taxpayers are accurately reporting their income – was based in part on the IRS’s continued inability to process backlogs of paper-filed tax returns…’” the letter said, referring to an inspector general report and the IRS’ millions of unprocessed tax returns.
The letter comes after the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released an audit in May reporting that the IRS destroyed 30 million “paper-filed information return documents.” Experts said this will make it harder for the IRS to check if future returns are accurate and to conduct audits.
“Indeed, it appears that the IRS may now demand that taxpayers provide duplicate copies of information previously destroyed by the IRS,” the letter said. “We are also troubled by TIGTA findings that efforts by the IRS to modernize paper filing processing has failed and are skeptical that the IRS will follow through with TIGTA recommendations to alleviate these problems, particularly as “IRS management did not take sufficient actions to address recommendations included in [TIGTA’s] prior review.”
The records can also be used for reviews of the IRS’ performance.
“This audit was initiated because the IRS’s continued inability to process backlogs of paper-filed tax returns contributed to management’s decision to destroy an estimated 30 million paper-filed information return documents in March 2021,” the TIGTA said. “The IRS uses these documents to conduct post-processing compliance matches to identify taxpayers who do not accurately report their income. TIGTA previously reported that there were actions the IRS could take to reduce paper filings and/or convert paper tax returns into an electronic format. In addition, TIGTA reported that, while the electronic filing (e-filing) of business tax returns continued to increase, the e-filing rate still lags behind that of individual tax returns. Finally, repeated efforts to modernize paper tax return processing have been unsuccessful.”
The federal tax-collecting agency also has struggled to keep up with returns and has taken fire for wasting billions of dollars in improper payments. The U.S. House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee held a hearing last month, as The Center Square previously reported, where Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C. said the agency had 16 million unprocessed returns.
“The program has an annual improper payment rate of around 25%. In the latest fiscal year, the improper payment amount totaled $19 billion,” Rice said at the hearing.
The IRS, though, says its delays are because of President Joe Biden’s COVID-era spending, which tasked the agency with distributing COVID-19 stimulus payments as well as creating and distributing checks to millions of American families based on the age and number of children they had under the Child Tax Credit program.
Those heavy administrative burdens, the agency said, put them behind.
“The agency was called upon to support emergency relief for taxpayers, like distributing an unprecedented three rounds of Economic Impact Payments, totaling over $830 billion, to 85% of American households,” The Treasury Department said earlier this year. “Including individual refunds, the IRS has distributed over $1.5 trillion to Americans since the pandemic began. This was all done at a time when the IRS budget was at historic lows, and while adjusting operating protocols to ensure the IRS workforce was safe and healthy in the midst of the pandemic.”
Critics pointed to the IRS scandals as evidence to push back against President Joe Biden’s plans to expand the agency and its power, including recent plans to allow the IRS to monitor the bank accounts of millions of Americans.
“Once again, the scandal-ridden IRS has failed the American people,” said Matthew Dickerson, a budget and tax expert at the Heritage Foundation. “This is just another example in a long line of controversies that has deteriorated the taxpayers’ trust in the agency. The IRS has been politicized, repeatedly targeting conservatives, and illegally leaking confidential taxpayer records. …
“Congress must hold the IRS accountable,” he added. “Moreover, lawmakers must reject Biden’s proposal to require reporting to the IRS on the financial accounts of law-abiding citizens and $79 billion IRS slush fund.”
Categories: National News
Some clarification is in order. The 3 COVID-era payments were awarded under both the Trump and Biden Administrations; 2 under Trump, one under Biden. These payments were the result of bipartisan support of both the US House and Senate. As with all law, this directive came from the legislative branch, NOT the executive branch. The Executive (President) simply executes the laws passed in Congress as the title implies. Additionally, under the Trump Administration, the legislative branch slashed funding of IRS personnel, some have argued in an effort to make it impossible for the IRS to audit wealthy tax cheats. The IRS is failing to meet all of its obligations BY DESIGN. To now then use these failures in argument to further reduce or not reconstitute the IRS budget, rather than as constructive criticism to underscore the need to address the IRS understaffing problem is simply dirty politics. Can I say that I am really wearying of all of this partisan fingerpointing and misdirection? It would be so refreshing if the CHILDREN running our two failing political parties stopped their self-aggrandizing and instead went to work for working Americans, rather than their political funders and drinking buddies.
We can now add the IRS to the growing list of dysfunctional US government departments unable to carry their assigned duties regardless of the billions of dollars of tax payer money poured in by the American people.
The IRS now joins the the the Executive, both house of Congress, Department of Home Land Security, the VA, the Dept. of Energy and the list goes on and on.
And as John Brabant essentially has said above……..This is a problem created by both political parties……I add to John’s comment by saying that the American people are growing increasing sick and tired of the politics, name calling and ineptitude of those in Washington that allow these conditions to continue and grow.
Keep in mind, there is nothing in the tenants of our Constitutional Republic guarantying individuals will always act responsibly, or intelligently. The assumption is that, in our laboratories of democracy, we will see what works and what doesn’t. But the key point is that, sometimes, people choose what doesn’t work. Ostensibly, we learn from our mistakes – as has become apparent since January 20th, 2021. And, oh, what a lesson we’ve learned – and are still learning.
But anarchy and chaos are, and will continue to be, infinite in scope as the failure to abide by of our rule of law becomes more prevalent.
Corruption point blank.
Thieves about to be caught… destroying the evidence.
This is sooo much deeper than partisan politics…it goes to the root of what we have allowed to place its foot on our necks over the past 75-100 years.
And what agreements/choices we made…to go along in a period of comfort and false safety and peace.
When ARE we going to grow up and …as the commentor above notes… put adults in charge of…us.
Or… just realize we don’t need no daddy to ask permission of, give permission, or otherwise oversee our ADULT choices.
And there’s always the REAL question:
Like a dog covering his recent….
Close down the IRS ,which has become a political weapon, of some in power, and implement a nationwide VAT tax, instead of the system we have now, where you need to hire IRS revolving door insiders to understand and stay within the law when it’s time to do your taxes. Have the states merge the VAT within the state tax system and have the states collect and distribute the VAT to the federal general fund for further distribution to federal programs and operations. This will help keep Washington honest and stop IRS revolving doors policies, to stay in power, over us all.