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Sen. Orrin Hatch: IRS Disconnecting Taxpayer Phone Calls, While Spending Millions on Polling, Office Furniture

Given the Internal Revenue Service’s recent bellyaches over being underfunded — which it says forces it to ignore some 60 percent of taxpayer phone calls during filing season — Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is highlighting some ways the IRS could save.

“I hope this is helpful in identifying additional areas of wasteful spending that might be better redirected elsewhere, such as helping taxpayers file their taxes,” Hatch wrote Tuesday in a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Hatch says the IRS has spent $4.3 million on “market research” and “public opinion” polling, nearly $4 million on office furniture, some $8,000 on a “fitness equipment stair climber,” and thousands more on doodad-give-away items like stuffed animals, toy footballs, “kazoos, bathtub toy boats, and Thomas the Tank Engine rubber wristbands, for managers’ meetings.”

The itemization of what Hatch says is “wasteful spending” follows another effort by Hatch and other Senate Finance Committee Republicans in January to spotlight other problematic spending at the IRS and areas where the agency could find savings.

“These included: 1) stop giving paid vacation days to employees with serious conduct issues, including those owing back taxes; 2) stop spending millions of dollars on organized labor activity, such as the $23 million and 500,000 working hours your agency devoted to organized labor activity in Fiscal Year 2013; and 3) spend less money and employee time trying to regulate the free speech of Americans through the forthcoming IRS political activity rules,” Hatch wrote Tuesday.

The letter comes following reports that the IRS has been lacking in the realm of customer service and has made threats to delay refunds and even shut down the department.

“More recently, several news articles have detailed stories of IRS employees turning away those seeking help with their tax filings and hanging up on callers – something your agency bizarrely calls ‘courtesy disconnects,’” Hatch wrote, explaining his letter is intended to assist the agency better prioritize their spending.

Wednesday is Tax Day.

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