Unintended Consequences: IRS Service Bad, Getting Worse

Because of Obamacare responsibilities, regular taxpayers waiting longer, getting less help

The IRS has never been particularly well regarded, but its popularity level may be even lower than normal according to an article published in USA Today Monday.

The dissatisfaction comes not just from the mission of the regulatory agency, but also the significant decline in responsiveness and helpfulness when customers, a.k.a. taxpayers, have a question:

For the average taxpayer, the waits are long and often futile: 39% of those who called the IRS last year simply hung up before their call was answered, according to a scathing recent report by the IRS Taxpayer Advocate, whose job is to take the taxpayer's side at the IRS. (The IRS typically responds to the report at midyear.) And it's only going to get worse. "Given our very limited resources, phone lines will be very busy, and there will frequently be extensive wait times," IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said on the agency's official YouTube video about the 2013 tax year.

The article lays much of the blame at the feet of Obamacare, as the health care law added responsibilities to the IRS but didn't provide additional funding to pay for them:

IRS customer service has been struggling for the past three years, and the cause is fairly simple: Congress has consistently cut its budget. "Congress doesn't like the IRS," Nemeth says, and Congress is unlikely to get much blowback when it cuts the not exactly beloved agency's budget. While the president requested $340 million in funding for the IRS because of the Affordable Care Act, none of that was funded by Congress. But the IRS has to do what the law requires it to do, Koskinen says. "If other things don't get done, that's what we'll do."