IRS Commissioner Blames Obamacare Drain for Poor Performance, Cyber Attacks

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Testifying before Congress on Thursday, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen the demands of enforcing ObamaCare for poor customer service and cybersecurity.

The Washington Examiner reports Koskinen told the House Appropriations Committee his agency was “underfunded” for dealing with the challenge of implementing the Affordable Care Act, even though committee chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) noted that Congress “increased funding specifically for taxpayer services” in 2014 and 2016.

“Koskinen said it didn’t matter where Congress intended the money to go, explaining the agency had pulled funding for customer service and cybersecurity in order to ensure compliance with the ACA,” the Examiner writes.

This week brought a sobering reminder of the cybersecurity challenges the IRS faces, as identity thieves used 460,000 stolen Social Security Numbers to attack the Internal Revenue website.  Fortunately, they were unable to force the IRS website to generate most of the PIN numbers they needed to file fraudulent tax returns.

“The agency reveals that 101,000 PINs were successfully generated during the attack, but the IRS claims it blocked the attack and no personal information was compromised or disclosed,” reports the Consumerist.  The victims have been notified their Social Security Numbers were stolen, and their accounts have been flagged to prevent future efforts at tax fraud.

The jury is out on whether this particular attack should be chalked up as a win or loss (the Washington Examiner describes it as a “successful” attack, because 101,000 PIN numbers were generated by the hackers), but a raid on IRS systems last year was able to purloin information on 330,000 taxpayers from an agency database containing old tax returns.

Koskinen said $900 million has been pulled from cybersecurity, and customer service hasn’t been fully funded for the past three or four years, resulting in some eight million unanswered calls to the IRS customer service line.

President Obama’s last budget proposal included a 9 percent hike in the IRS budget, bringing it from $10.9 billion up to $12.2 billion, and allowing it to hire another 4,000 employees, according to Government Executive.  The IRS received a $290 million budget hike in the two-year budget deal reached last fall.

“In addition, the plan promises to make IRS operations more efficient and combat identity theft. The plan would ensure compliance with the Federal Records Act to implement an electronic document retention policy – a sore point for lawmakers in recent years during probes of alleged political bias in the IRS’s Exempt Organizations division,” GovExec writes.

The Hill reports pushback against Koskinen’s budget request from House Republicans.  Subcommittee chair Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) said it was sometimes difficult to take budget requests seriously “when the IRS again asks for an unrealistically high amount that doesn’t make customer service a priority and fails to adopt some of the good government reforms that we added.”

Crenshaw noted that in Obama’s budget increase for the agency, less than 20 percent of the increase was for taxpayer services, cybersecurity, and identity-theft protection.

“Each year we learn that customer service diminishes,” Crenshaw said to Koskinen.  “You may argue it’s because the IRS budget has been cut, but I’m going to argue that it’s because the IRS chooses to spend its funds in other areas like the Affordable Care Act, bonuses and conferences.”

Rep. Rogers further criticized the Obama budget proposal for adding more funding to implement ObamaCare, a measure Congress has repeatedly rejected, and for removing administrative provisions that would prevent repeats of the Tea Party targeting scandal, or the IRS wasting money on ridiculous training videos.


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