Hearing on Internal Revenue Service Operations and the 2013 Tax Return Filing Season
SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT
COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED THIRTEENTH CONGRESS
April 25, 2013
Printed for the use of the Committee on Ways and Means
COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
SAM JOHNSON, Texas
|SANDER M. LEVIN, Michigan
CHARLES B. RANGEL, New York
JIM MCDERMOTT, Washington
JOHN LEWIS, Georgia
RICHARD E. NEAL, Massachusetts
XAVIER BECERRA, California
LLOYD DOGGETT, Texas
MIKE THOMPSON, California
JOHN B. LARSON, Connecticut
EARL BLUMENAUER, Oregon
RON KIND, Wisconsin
BILL PASCRELL, JR., New Jersey
JOSEPH CROWLEY, New York
ALLYSON SCHWARTZ, Pennsylvania
DANNY DAVIS, Illinois
LINDA SÁNCHEZ, California
JENNIFER M. SAFAVIAN, Staff Director and General Counsel
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES
DIANE BLACK, Tennessee
|JOHN LEWIS, Georgia
JOSEPH CROWLEY, New York
DANNY DAVIS, Illinois
LINDA SÁNCHEZ, California
Mr. Steven Miller
Acting Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service
Hearing on Internal Revenue Service Operations and the 2013 Tax Return Filing Season
Thursday, April 25, 2013
U.S. House of Representatives,
Committee on Ways and Means,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 2:37 p.m., in Room 1100, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Charles Boustany [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
[The advisory of the hearing follows:]
Chairman Boustany. The hearing of the subcommittee will come to order.
Before we proceed with business, I would like to yield to the ranking member, Mr. Lewis, for a statement.
Mr. Lewis. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I must tell you that I am not pleased to make this statement, but, Mr. Chairman, I would like to take a moment to say thank you to Miguel Martinez on my staff.
Miguel’s last day is today. He has served as my tax and benefits counsel since February of 2009 and has been my key staff person for Ways and Means Committee‑type retirement and oversight issues.
I was lucky to have found and worked with this truly distinguished young man. He will always be a part of the John Lewis family. He was born in Atlanta and lived there and attended law school. And he has not just been a wonderful staff person but a wonderful human being.
I wish him the best of luck as he moves forward.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Boustany. Well, I, too, wish him the best of luck. And, Mr. Lewis, we all know that we never lose staff, we always gain staff. And so we wish him the best of luck, as well.
Chairman Boustany. Now to the business at hand. I would like to welcome everybody to the Subcommittee on Oversight’s annual hearing on the Internal Revenue Service’s operations and budget.
Just last week, millions of taxpayers across America scrambled to meet their tax filing obligations by April 15th. That was no easy feat. Every year, taxpayers face a Tax Code of growing complexity. Indeed, there have been nearly 5,000 changes to the Tax Code in the past 10 years. As a result of the growing length and complexity of the Tax Code, individual taxpayers and businesses spend an estimated 6.1 billion hours and $163 billion every single year complying with tax filing requirements.
And these burdens aren’t the taxpayers’ alone. The IRS is tasked with processing the Nation’s tax returns and administering our broken Tax Code. At the same time, the IRS must deliver expert customer service to millions of honest taxpayers who turn to it for assistance. But more, the agency has to execute its core mission while managing increasing responsibilities to run social policy programs such as Obamacare.
Despite all of this, the IRS managed to wrap up a 2013 filing season with efficiency and few delays. Although the 2013 filing season was delayed due to preparations for tax law changes, the IRS processed over 93 million individual tax returns and issued $214.5 billion in refunds to over 77.8 million taxpayers.
Acting Commissioner Miller, I would like to commend you for managing the IRS’s resources to ensure that there was no break in service during this tax filing season. I know many agencies have dealt with furloughs, and you were able to manage all of this within the tax filing season to get it done. And I think you are to be commended for that effort ‑‑
Mr. Miller. Thank you.
Chairman Boustany. ‑‑ as well as all the personnel who were involved.
We want to hear now today that ‑‑ we want to hear how the IRS was able to do more with less this year, in effect. We will be interested in hearing this.
As part of our review of the 2013 tax filing season, we will also discuss the IRS’s response to a sharp increase in reports of identity theft so far this filing season. Every year, tax fraudsters set out to steal millions of dollars in phony tax refunds. Every day, hardworking Americans are victims of these schemes that oftentimes hold up legitimate tax returns and refunds. Today, we will talk about what the IRS is doing to detect and prevent identity theft and tax fraud.
In March, Congress adopted a spending measure at the sequestration level of spending for the balance of the fiscal year. I am proud that Congress was able to cut spending for real. And, with that said, I know that the transition to this new spending level involves management challenges. We are certainly aware of these. So we will discuss the IRS’s operating plans for this year and also examine how the IRS can avoid wasteful spending going forward and how we can have a more efficient Service.
Rather than seeking to tighten spending and be more responsible with taxpayer dollars, the administration’s 2014 budget request goes in the opposite direction. It is a budget that literally never balances. And, for its part, the IRS has requested nearly $13 billion for fiscal year 2014, an increase of more than $1 billion over the 2012 enacted rate.
Included is a request for 6,287 additional employees. This significant demand for new personnel arises in part from the fact that the IRS has been given two competing responsibilities: revenue collector and social program administrator.
The biggest contributor to this problem is the President’s healthcare law, and the administration’s fiscal 2014 budget request acknowledges this. More than 803 employees have already been sucked out of the agency’s enforcement operations and customer services accounts to implement Obamacare. This budget seeks 1,151 more, for a total of 1,954.
Even as the IRS has made progress with taxpayer ID theft and improper payments, it has acknowledged it can do more. The truth is that Obamacare is pulling the IRS away from its core mission.
So, Acting Commissioner Miller, I look forward to hearing your testimony.
And now I would like to yield to the distinguished ranking member of this subcommittee, the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Lewis, for the purposes of an opening statement.
Mr. Lewis. I thank the chairman for holding this hearing on the Internal Revenue Service. I am pleased to have the Commissioner before us today.
I am also pleased to discuss our landmark healthcare reform law, which will expand health coverage to 27 million Americans. This is a key year for the agency and the Affordable Care Act. This is the year the healthcare reform law is being put into operation. The IRS will play an important role as it helps to deliver hundreds of billions of dollars in premium tax credits to American families next year.
Before we hear from the Acting Commissioner, it is important to review the many benefits of the Affordable Care Act that have been delivered so far. The act has helped millions of American families and children. For an example, the healthcare reform law has protected over 17 million children with preexisting conditions. These children can no longer be denied health coverage. In addition, there are almost 7 million young adults who now have health insurance until the age of 26. Further, the law has helped more than 4 million seniors receive free annual wellness visits under Medicare. These are only a few of the many benefits received to date.
I am confident that the Affordable Care Act will be carried out on schedule. Today, I look forward to learning where we are in the process and understanding more about the agency budget request.
Commissioner Miller, I would like to thank you, your staff, and the agency employees for their hard work on the healthcare reform law. We need to continue to move with all deliberate speed to make sure that tens of millions of Americans receive the health care they deserve. Thank you very much for being here.
And, with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Chairman Boustany. I thank the gentleman.
Chairman Boustany. And now it is my pleasure to welcome our witness today, Mr. Steven Miller, Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement.
Commissioner Miller, I want to thank you for your time today. You have appeared before this subcommittee and the full committee on many occasions, and we appreciate your willingness to come before us today.
As is customary, your formal testimony will be made a part of the record, and I will ask you to limit your oral comments to 5 minutes.
And, with that, you are recognized.
STATEMENT OF STEVEN T. MILLER, ACTING COMMISSIONER, INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
Mr. Miller. Thank you, Chairman Boustany, Mr. Lewis, members of the subcommittee, for the opportunity.
Before I give more detail on the proposed budget, let me report on this year’s filing season. As you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, I am happy to report that the current filing season ran very smoothly. Through April 20th, the IRS received 130 million individual returns, issued 94 million refunds for a total of $250 billion. This unfolded despite the difficult challenges presented by substantial tax law changes that occurred in January of this very year.
In terms of our 2014 budget request, I understand your views, Mr. Chairman, but I do believe it represents a fair balance of service enforcement and innovation. The taxpayer service highlights include improving our phone service and providing for more online self‑service options. Enforcement initiatives include increasing the resources and tools available for identity theft as well as addressing international issues and improving the manner in which we use data.
Note that for each dollar we receive, we return multiples of that to the United States Treasury. If enacted, the enforcement initiatives of the 2014 budget are estimated to increase revenue collected or protected by some $3.5 billion.
My testimony outlines our recent accomplishments. We have delivered smooth filing seasons and successfully carried out core duties while making important progress on a number of initiatives.
An example is our effort to address identity theft. Over 3,000 of our employees are working on identity theft at this time, more than double the number at the start of last filing season. Last fiscal year, we spent $330 million fighting refund fraud and identity theft, and it was money well‑spent. During 2012, the IRS protected more than $20 billion in revenue, up from $14 billion the year before. So far this filing season, we have stopped over 3 million returns.
Now, I know that the current budget environment is tight, but it is important to understand that these and other accomplishments are at risk if our budget continues to atrophy. Yes, I think we will continue to succeed with the filing season and we will continue our efforts to maintain excellence in performance, but that performance will begin to reflect the impact of the large budget cuts of the last few years. This means that there will be a steady erosion in the service we provide to taxpayers and in the amount of money we collect.
In this regard, let me note the effects of sequester. We have publicly stated that the IRS faces up to 7 furlough days this fiscal year. We anticipate a considerable reduction in the revenues we collect and the calls we can answer as a result of sequestration.
We have also become more efficient, even as our budget has been reduced, and it has been reduced by about a billion dollars since 2010. That represents an almost 8 percent cut in our budget, even as we have been asked to tackle significant new challenges, as you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, including ACA, including identity theft, and including the foreign account work that we do under FATCA.
We have met some of this reduction by cutting expenses by almost half a billion dollars in recent years, and the 2014 request contains another $255 million in cuts. We have also been strategic in our hiring decisions, using buyouts, as well as reducing expenses in non‑labor areas. By closely managing hiring, we have seen a reduction in the total number of full‑time permanent IRS employees by almost 7,000 between the end of 2010 and currently. Note also that we currently are running nearly 10,000 employees fewer than we were at this time during the 2010 filing season.
In our non‑labor spending, we limited operating travel to mission‑critical needs and we have increased the use of virtual delivery of meetings and training, allowing the IRS to reduce travel costs by a total of $158 million annually, a 55 percent reduction from fiscal year 2010. There has also been reduced spending on professional and technical service contracts by $200 million and $60 million in printing and postage. We have also aggressively reduced our rent payments.
Mr. Chairman, we will continue our efforts to be fiscally prudent and make wise investments in our strategic priorities in enforcement, service, and business modernization. However, as I have noted, without a change in the current budget environment, the American people will see erosion in our ability to serve them, and the Federal government will see fewer receipts from our enforcement activities.
Thank you so much, sir.
Chairman Boustany. Well, I thank you.
[The statement of Mr. Miller follows:]
Chairman Boustany. And we are all ‑‑ I know you and I are both aware of the complexity of the Tax Code, both from the standpoint of the taxpayer as well as from the administrative standpoint. And that is one of the primary reasons why we are moving forward with tax reform in the full committee. And I am hopeful that over time we can get to a resolution with a Tax Code that is simple and fair for the taxpayer and it is easy for you to administer without ever‑increasing costs to deal with, you know, the many compliance issues and the enforcement side. So we are hopeful we can get to something that works.
Last week, you sent a memo to IRS employees letting them know that, due to sequestration cuts, all IRS public operations, including taxpayer phone assistance, will be completely closed on 5 nonconsecutive days throughout 2013.
I want to commend you, again, that during this past filing season, with all the challenges, the late tax changes, there were no furloughs. You guys got through it. It was tough, but you did it. But it seems to me at this stage going forward that it is inefficient to close the IRS’s entire public operation for a day rather than furloughing employees maybe on a rolling basis.
And so I am curious, how did you decide on this type of furlough plan? And were any other plans considered?
Mr. Miller. So, Mr. Chairman, other plans were considered. We sort of picked days. I mean, three of the ‑‑ well, first of all, we are still at a posture where we think we have 7 days that we may have to take off.
Chairman Boustany. Okay.
Mr. Miller. We have picked out 5 days, and let me go to the rationale as to why we picked those days, and why we picked full closure days instead of rolling furloughs.
The days we picked are around holidays, where we have staff that is down usually on those days anyway, and on Fridays, which are down days as well, and days that our IT folks would say are the best days if we are going to do this.
We have laid out 5 days. We have laid them out in noncontiguous fashion because, while I can afford to take a batch of furlough days, we have a batch of folks in the lower grades that cannot. They live hand‑to‑mouth, like many do. And so those folks need that cut spread out. They can’t take it all at once. And our decision was to lay it out early and lay it out on specific days, so that everybody would know what to expect and would be able to plan that way.
We did 5 days now. We are hoping to stay at 5 days. We are hoping to go lower than 5 days, to be honest with you, depending on what money we can collect and save in the interim. That money will go into reducing the days. In some places, it is going to have to go into investments, where we need to do that on a business basis, obviously.
Now, as to why we decided on full closure days, the complexity of trying to figure out who would take off and when was one thing we looked at. Another consideration that was key was degradation in service. If we have people off the phones, our level of service on a given day would suffer. And I am not sure that was better for the taxpayer, rather than calling the next day. Not being able to get in on a day because we had rolling furloughs versus being able to get in, but not on a given day, was a business decision we made.
And the last reason is it is cheaper for us to do it this way. We will save more money. We will close offices. We will be able to have security stand down. There are ancillary fixed costs, but there are also some variables in there. We found it would be cheaper, and we would save more money, doing it in this fashion.
So it ultimately was better for, I think, taxpayers and for the employees to do it this way.
Chairman Boustany. When Secretary Lew appeared before the full committee, I asked him the question with regard to Treasury’s operations across the board, basically, are you confident that you have looked across the board at the budget, and are there any other areas where cuts can be made?
So I would ask you, at this stage, as you look at the IRS’s budget, are you confident that you have really looked at everything aside from furloughs? Are there other areas, are there any other areas where you feel you can make cuts without causing some degradation in service?
Mr. Miller. We have made cuts. It would be wrong for me to say, “yes, we are done looking,” because we are not. We have to continue to look and turn over every stone to see what we can scrape together to get this done.
Remember, sir, that the furlough days, 7 furlough days is less than one‑third of our sequester amount. It is less than $200 million of the $600 million that we are going to have to find to live within our means. The balance has already been saved by those items that I have been talking about, including contract cuts, including cuts in other areas.
So we are not done, no, sir, and we are going to keep working.
Chairman Boustany. Right. And I know you and I had a phone conversation when news broke about the “Star Trek” video and the need for a production studio. And I raised the question, is that necessary, is that a necessary ongoing expense at some $4 million per year at a time when you are having to furlough employees and make cuts where service may be impacted negatively?
Mr. Miller. I think it is a fair question, and we are taking a look to make sure it is as cost‑effective as we believe it is. But I think it is. If you look at the numbers ‑‑ and we can walk through these with you, sir ‑‑ what you will find is our amount of travel is down 55 percent, on an annual basis. Our training travel is down around 80 percent. And the rationale and the reason for that is we have doubled the amount of virtual training we do. And that virtual training is created out of that studio.
So, for example, we have talked about the island video. That was a 12‑hour DVD set that was created by that group and saved us probably $1.5 million annually so we didn’t have people coming together. They could sit at their desk and do those 12 hours of training. Similarly, we had an international training that was done for 1,500 of our international examiners. Similarly, we had a small‑business training on how to interview a taxpayer. All of these things are being done virtually.
And I think I have also mentioned to you, sir, that we use it for other reasons, as well. I have used it personally for, frankly, a virtual town hall with 4,000 managers. I was able to stream through and talk to them directly about what we need to do, where we need to go, including the cuts, including all of these things.
Chairman Boustany. And I guess my question is, have you compared the ongoing expense of maintaining that versus contracting that out separately? And that is a fair question to ask.
Mr. Miller. That is a fair question, and we are taking a look at it as we speak. I am also, frankly, absolutely open to efficiencies. There are discussions of, should we share with other agencies? I think we are open to all of that.
But I think it would be shortsighted to just cut it off, because not only is it training our employees in a very efficient fashion, it is also creating information for taxpayers. Our YouTube videos, such as the one on refunds, had 1 million viewers this year that hopefully pulled people away from calling us on the phone.
So there are things that we are doing with the studio that I think are efficient. Can we be more efficient? I am quite sure we can, and we ought to get after that.
Chairman Boustany. Thank you.
And I know that no agency knows more about the scope of ACA implementation better than the IRS. I think that is a pretty fair statement, given the new burdens that have been placed upon you. And at this subcommittee’s September 2012 hearing on the topic, former IRS Commissioner Fred Goldberg called the law’s implementation a heavy lift. Indeed, the law added a whole new layer of duties on the IRS beyond its core mission of administering the Tax Code.
And on March 21st, I sent you a letter asking a number of questions about the agency’s use of taxpayer money to implement the law. And though I requested the information be, you know, forwarded to us by April 3rd, and I know you had a lot on your plate as an agency at the time, I have not received an answer. And so when can I expect an answer to this question?
Mr. Miller. I would have liked to have had it to you already, sir. And we will try to get it to you this week. I apologize for that. I tried.
Chairman Boustany. I know this was before your time at the head of the reins, but I wanted to raise the question again since we have yet to get a response.
Mr. Miller. We will get you that response, sir.
Chairman Boustany. Thank you, Mr. Miller.
And I am now pleased to yield to the ranking member, Mr. Lewis.
Mr. Lewis. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And, again, Mr. Commissioner, thank you for being here.
I would like to take just a moment to focus on the Affordable Care Act. In 2012, about 13 million consumers received more than $1 billion in rebate payments required by the law because their insurance plan did not spend enough of the premium on Medicare.
The healthcare reform law also is expected to deliver hundreds of billions of dollars of premium tax credits to American families so that they can afford health insurance. Making sure that these families understand and receive these tax credits is very important.
Would you please describe what the IRS has done so far to implement the tax credits in the law?
Mr. Miller. Mr. Lewis, people will start signing up for advance payments in October of this year from the exchanges that are being run by States and CMS and HHS.
We, obviously, have worked hard to build the infrastructure and the IT capabilities. Our role in the standup of the exchanges is in the backroom. We actually are building the infrastructure and the piping to get the exchanges the information they need to make decisions as to whether a particular individual or family qualifies for the premium tax credit. And we are doing quite well, I believe, in that regard. That has been our key work on the premium tax credit to date.
Mr. Lewis. Well, thank you.
Now, the Affordable Care Act has enhanced the health care for millions of seniors. As of April, more than 6 million seniors in the donut hole have received savings on their prescription drugs. Those savings total almost $6 billion and average over $700 per senior in 2012. In addition, over 4 million seniors have taken advantage of free annual wellness visits under Medicare.
Now, Mr. Commissioner, for year 2014, the IRS requested over $400 million to implement provisions in the ACA. Some of this money will be used to enhance taxpayer service. Please explain to us how the IRS plans to educate and assist the taxpayers.
Mr. Miller. Part of that discussion will occur as people go to the exchanges in 2013, actually. And a lot of that discussion will be worked with our friends and our colleagues at HHS.
What we will be doing for 2014 is preparing for the 2014 returns to come in, educating people on what they will need to have in place for that year, what they will need to report to us, and having the ability to receive phone calls from people who just want to find out what is going on, what do they need to do to get through the tax filing season.
The largest part of the component of what we are asking for in 2014 is IT money; $300 million of it is IT money. There is some money for taxpayer service. Most of that in the request is for phone assisters, to take phone calls. We also have some money in there for transcribing information that comes in so that we have the data we need to prevent fraud, and also some additional staffing for our walk‑in sites, but that is fairly minor.
That is the kind of stuff that is in the 2014 budget, with respect to ACA, on the taxpayer service side.
Mr. Lewis. It is my understanding that under the Affordable Care Act more than 350,000 small employers have claimed the small‑business healthcare tax credit to help them afford health insurance for 2 million workers in 2011. The ACA has also helped more than 85,000 individuals with preexisting conditions gain health coverage.
Is it possible for you to tell us what you are doing with the almost 2,000 employees you requested implementation of the Affordable Care Act? What is the role of these employees?
Mr. Miller. Let’s start with the bulk. The largest piece, actually, is for taxpayer service to provide the ability for people to call in and get their answers to questions. We also have, as I mentioned, some field assistance folks, the people who help when you walk into the TAC, our walk‑in sites to help folks.
The second‑largest amount, by far, is to fund the IT personnel we need to do the work for 2014. The 2014 IT work involves how we receive information from insurance companies, how do we receive information from the exchanges, how do we receive information from taxpayers, and what can we do with that information to ensure that folks know that they have gotten all that they need to get and, secondly, that they haven’t gotten too much or that there is no fraud in the system. Those are the things we need for 2014 that those 1,954 folks would be doing for us.
Mr. Lewis. Okay. Thank you very much, Mr. Commissioner.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Chairman Boustany. Ms. Black, you are recognized.
Mrs. Black. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And, Mr. Miller, thank you for being here today. I know that you have a very large job, and I hear you acknowledge that these are hardworking taxpayer dollars that we have to make sure are protected. And so I have two different areas of concern here that I would like for you to address.
One comes from my State, which I am not proud of, and this was just in the news the last week, and I am going to hold it up here. It says, Feds charge 24 IRS workers in Tennessee with theft. Workers accused of lying to get unemployment benefits, welfare, food stamps, and housing vouchers. Thursday’s indictments accuse 24 employees of fraudulently obtaining those benefits, going back as far as 2006 and as recently as December the 31st of 2012.
This is a huge concern. I hear you saying that the budget and sequestration and all these things may be able to affect what you are able to do, but this goes beyond that. This goes to a culture.
And it also says here on Monday, for example, Federal prosecutors in Indianapolis announced the convictions of four former IRS employees in a similar scheme. So I am not proud of what has happened in Tennessee. Certainly, there is concern about what has happened here in Indianapolis.
But it seems to me this is going pretty deep into taxpayer dollars, number one, but the culture of what is happening there. Can you help me understand what you all are doing to hold the workers accountable for the very important positions that they hold in a public trust?
Mr. Miller. First, let me agree with you that they’re indictments. But let’s ‑‑ so we will assume that they didn’t do it. But these are incredibly serious charges. But, I would say, to damn our entire IRS culture for the acts of 24 individuals is probably not fair. I think the vast majority of our folks are incredibly honest and hardworking. Obviously, at 96,000 individuals, we are going to have pockets of problems. It seems like we had pockets of problems.
We try to train employees about their duties; we try to review with them their duties. We have seasonals come in and temporary workers as well. We will be training them again, and we do work with our Inspector General, on unemployment benefits, especially as, for example, the furloughs come out. People need to understand whether they can or cannot use unemployment for that period of time.
We will reach out, we will train. We work with our Inspector General very closely in this area, and, they were part of these arrests; we knew about them.
Mrs. Black. Well, I don’t mean to paint a broad picture to say that everybody that works there ‑‑ obviously not. But when you have something like this hit the newspaper, and then it also talks about it is not just isolated to one area, that you are finding it in another area, I just want to be assured and I want to be able to assure the hardworking taxpayers of my district that we are doing everything we can to protect their dollars and that they are not being used by the very people that are supposed to be protecting them.
Let me go to a second newspaper article that just came out this week. It says, IRS issues billions in improper refunds. And this goes back to something that we heard in a ‑‑ I am not sure whether it was in this committee, Mr. Chairman, or whether it was on the HR that I sat on last year, that there was a problem with the Earned Income Tax Credit and the number of those who are improperly getting that tax credit.
And I want to just read this one line that says, The Treasury Department Deputy Inspector General, Michael McKenney, found that the IRS has failed to comply for 2 consecutive years with the Improper Payment Elimination Act, which President Obama signed in 2010.
And so my question for you ‑‑ and it says, Overall, the agency has made little improvement in reducing the EITC improper payments. Now, you know, this is really a concern to me, that there doesn’t seem to be a following, according to the Inspector General, about what is put in place to help us stop that. But this is $11 billion in improper payments, so it is not like a couple million dollars. Even that we talk about as though it is nothing.
I know that one thing that is talked about in the IRS as they responded to this was the incredible complexity of our tax law, which I recognize that is so. And we are really trying hard on this Ways and Means to rectify that with hopefully a bill that we will be able to come up with to do that.
But I see that I have just gotten the red light and run out of time. If you could in writing tell me why it is that for 2 consecutive years there has not seemed to have been a compliance with this Improper Payments Elimination Act, I would very much appreciate that.
Mr. Miller. And if I could take 30 seconds or 2 seconds on it, I am not going to argue that we are in compliance, because I don’t believe we are. But we are working on it. We will establish in a written response to you that we are.
And, by the way, the improper payments, while we are not where we need to be, what you will see is that we are the best we have been in 7 years.
Chairman Boustany. Well, we know this has been an ongoing problem. And we had discussions, I think last year, about the additional child tax credit, as well ‑‑
Mr. Miller. Right.
Chairman Boustany. ‑‑ and the need to ‑‑ we thought there was a need to require a Social Security number there rather than just an ITIN. And, I mean, do you see that as a need?
Mr. Miller. So that is a statutory decision to be made.
Chairman Boustany. I understand.
Mr. Miller. We have tightened up the ITIN rules, but whether, in order to get a child tax credit or an advanced child tax credit, you need to have an ITIN or an SSN really is a policy sort of decision.
Rolling back to the Congresswoman’s question, I would concur that I think that the EITC would be a ripe place for simplification. It is a difficult thing for us to administer.
Chairman Boustany. Thank you.
Ms. Jenkins. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Commissioner, for being here.
I wanted to visit with you a little bit about the IRS’s handling of identity fraud cases as it relates to the victims. Much like the overall increase in theft cases, I have seen an uptick in constituents that have contacted my office for help with dealing with the IRS. In most cases, my constituents are simply asking for help in reaching someone at the IRS so they can tell them their case status.
But I wanted to share with you a couple examples. One constituent filed their return early in the filing season last year, so February 2012, and received a message that his return had already been filed. So after contacting the fraud division and filing a paper return, he was told to expect a refund in about 90 days. At that time, the fraudulent return had not been released. Yet, several weeks after the initial IRS contact, the IRS system automatically released the payment to the fraudulent filer. Apparently, the return had not been flagged. At the same time, his daughter was starting college and needed a current tax return for the FAFSA application. So this family had to delay their FAFSA application pending the resolution of their whole tax situation.
In another instance, a constituent waited until late in August of 2012 to contact the IRS because they hadn’t received their tax refund after filing early in March. And he was informed that someone else had filed under his Social Security number and to expect the refund by November at the latest. Well, he contacted the IRS in December and was told the refund would be delayed yet again until mid‑January. He finally got that 2011 refund in April, more than a year after he had originally filed the return. And now we are still working on that case to resolve the issue that that caused with the delay in filing the 2012 filing.
And what is sad is I could go on and on about these calls that we get into our office every day.
So just a couple questions. First, can you describe for me what the ideal resolution process would look like? You know, when and how would victims be notified?
Mr. Miller. Let me put this in context, because your first example, it would not matter whether or not we had released the refund. It matters to all of us, but to that individual taxpayer it does create some complexities. But the bottom line is, in our IT system, if you are the second one in with a Social, Security Number you are prevented from filing. Our systems will not let you file. We are working on it.
Let me explain the problem first. They hit a wall, people hit a wall. They have to file on paper. They have to file an affidavit to indicate they are who they say they are. And then it does take us time.
We have closed, since this calendar year began more than 200,000 of these cases. One of them, obviously, was one of your constituents. And we are finally closing more than we are receiving, so we are driving down the number. There are still a number of these here. They overwhelmed us, quite frankly. I have pulled 1,500 people to do this work off of the phones, off of collection phones. We have had to find the people to do this.
In a better world, which is where we want to be, if you are the second one in, or you are the first one in, you don’t get kicked out. What happens to you is we verify you. You come in and we see, okay, you are Steve Miller, you have the same dependent that you have had the last 14 years, you are living at the same place that you lived for 14 years, you have the same job that you had for 14 years, or a little longer actually. And that sort of identifies that you are who you say you are, and you sail through. We are not there yet.
A better approach, sooner, that would be cheaper, frankly, for our systems, would be if we authenticated at the time of filing. If you, as you were filing your return, were asked a few questions by your software developer or whomever some out‑of‑wallet questions they are called, to validate that you are who you say you are before you even come into our system, we would be better served still.
So these are the things we are working on. We would need to get to a place where we have the information. And other companies, the financial companies, have this information. We can, if we have the right tools, divine that you are who you say you are. But we are not quite there yet. We are testing some of that. We are testing the out‑of‑wallet stuff this year. Hopefully we will be able to do something next year to get us closer to a place where your constituents are able to come in and move through the system.
Ms. Jenkins. I see I am out of time, but I guess the big concern is, after a return has been flagged, it is concerning, how, then, can that fraudulent return be sent to the wrong ‑‑ you know, if it is not flagged ‑‑
Mr. Miller. I guess I don’t know the situation here. It doesn’t sound right to me, but there could be reasons why it could happen. By the way, I am more than willing for our staff to get together and discuss the specific cases involved and why that would have happened.
Ms. Jenkins. Thank you.
I yield back.
Chairman Boustany. I thank the gentlelady.
Mr. Davis, you are recognized.
Mr. Davis. Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Miller, as of April 2013, nearly 7 million young adults up to the age of 26 now have health insurance through their parents’ insurance plan. Could you talk a bit about changes to the Tax Code that were necessary to implement this provision?
Mr. Miller. I think, Mr. Davis, that you are referring to dependent coverage, but there were a number of changes made as part of the ACA bill.
One of them extended the employer exclusion for health coverage, the fact that we don’t get taxed if our employer provides us health coverage, to our children for a later age. I think, previously, your child or your dependent needed to be less than 19 years old or a full‑time student and 24. And I think the new rule is ‑‑ unfortunately, our kids are staying with us a little longer ‑‑ that they can be up to 26 and covered on your plan without adverse tax consequences to your taxes.
Mr. Davis. The Affordable Care Act has already delivered many benefits to millions of people. For example, over 100 million Americans have received one or more free preventive services, and 105 million Americans have had a lifetime limit on their coverage eliminated. And these are just the beginning of the health benefits Americans will receive.
For fiscal year 2014, the IRS requested about $340 million for information technology and operational support to deliver these new tax credits. Could you tell us why that money is needed?
Mr. Miller. I previously indicated some of this, but the IT money for 2014 that is contained in the budget really is to allow the IRS to receive the information that will be coming in to us from the exchanges. They will be telling us who is covered, under what plans, from the employers, who will be sending in annually some information with respect to who they are covering and who they are not covering, and the insurance companies of similar nature, what is coming in from them and who they are covering.
That information needs to be received by the IRS, and a system needs to be put together to do the matching that we are going to need to do so that we don’t have fraud in the system, so that we know, okay, Steve Miller has come in. Steve Miller is covered by ‑‑ oddly enough, the Department of Agriculture, I think, might show up but by the Federal Government, and he has health insurance. So we would know not to have an issue with respect to my return. That is a key aspect.
Another key aspect in the IT area is the building of a household income repository, so that when I come into the exchange, I will be able to find out quickly what my household income is. And the exchange will look at that and say, okay, you are or are not qualified for the following level of premium tax credit.
Mr. Davis. With reference to the Earned Income Tax Credit, there have been some representations that it is fraught with errors because of its complexity. Can you share what it is that makes this prone to errors and why it might be difficult to implement?
Mr. Miller. I will touch on two things here. First, the population involved. There was something like 55 million credits claimed in, I think, 2012, something like that. The people who are claiming the credit go in and out around the edges of whether they qualify or not. So, we believe maybe as many as one‑third my sort of churn. One‑third are out of the credit in a year and into the credit. That creates a real problem.
Second, it is a difficult credit to administer because it is filled with definitions of qualified child that are different than other places. There is a residency requirement that is very difficult for us to determine, on the face of the return, whether that is met or not; relationship requirements that are very difficult for us to determine. There are very specific things in determining the eligibility for and the level of the credit, that are both difficult for the taxpayer and difficult for the Service.
And as we talk about improper payments, I do want to make very clear it is not all fraud. It is a difficult credit, and people make mistakes. It is both.
Mr. Davis. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Chairman Boustany. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Reed, you are recognized.
Mr. Reed. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Mr. Miller, for being here today. It is always a pleasure to have you before us.
Mr. Miller, I note that the chairman had sent you a letter recently regarding the IRS’s policies on reading taxpayer emails, which some sources say run counter to established caselaw. Since then, you have gone on record, and I appreciate that, saying that the IRS believes taxpayers have a reasonable expectation of privacy in regards to their email.
So, based on that, I found it interesting that in the Internal Revenue manual it permits an IRS agent to attach a tracking device to a taxpayer’s vehicle without a court order. So I am interested, do you believe, as you did with the emails, that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in taxpayers’ vehicles?
Mr. Miller. I am going to have to come back to you on paper because that one sort of catches me out of the blue, Congressman. I apologize for that. You had me going toward emails and veered off into vehicles, and I am not really sure I understand the full impact of what you are asking. So I will be glad to get back to you on that.
Mr. Reed. I appreciate it. And it is in your internal manual at 188.8.131.52.5. And it references a policy of tracking without court orders taxpayer vehicles. And there appears to be some oversight forms that have to be required when your investigative officers do that. So I would be interested in getting the details ‑‑
Mr. Miller. Okay.
Mr. Reed. ‑‑ as to what that policy is all about.
Mr. Miller. Absolutely.
Mr. Reed. So moving to another area, Mr. Miller, I am interested in knowing exactly, because we have the Affordable Care Act going into implementation, and I just want to get a good read from you as to how many of your employees, full‑time equivalents, are working on that implementation right now.
Mr. Miller. I think the Chairman indicated 800. I thought it was a little less. I will have to come back with the exact number. When we come back with our letter, we will have that. I thought it was in the mid‑600s to 700.
Now, that is full‑time people. That are some full‑time people, mostly in the IT area, but then there are a batch of people that are doing some work elsewhere. We have staff working on something on a guidance project that is related to ACA, but they are also doing other things. So that is a conglomeration of the time that has been spent.
And I will come back with a more specific number, sir, but it is something in that range. Most of it is, as I say, IT. Some of it is taxpayer service, and some of it is enforcement, but maybe it is 200 in the enforcement area. And those individuals are doing things like working the 45R small‑business, credit the tanning tax, the drug statute, and provisions like that.
Mr. Reed. Okay. Because I know Treasury Secretary Lew had mentioned the 700 number, so that is good to hear you are somewhere in that ballpark. And I look forward to that detail.
Mr. Reed. Has there been any sharing of Federal employees? Has there been any unreimbursed detailees or cross‑training or other agencies working with you on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act? Or are these all full‑time equivalents that are under the direct control and authority of the IRS?
Mr. Miller. The 700 you are talking about are our employees.
Mr. Reed. Okay.
Mr. Miller. We work with HHS, we work with CMS, we work with the Department of Labor, we work with SSA, we work with a lot of other agencies. I am unaware ‑‑
Mr. Reed. Have any ‑‑
Mr. Miller. I am unaware ‑‑ we will check, but I am unaware of any unpaid details or details at all, frankly.
Mr. Reed. Okay. That are coming from the other agencies?
Mr. Miller. Yes.
Mr. Reed. But if you could check on that, I would appreciate it.
Mr. Miller. Okay.
Mr. Reed. Thank you.
The last thing, I want to kind of get ‑‑ of the Health Insurance Reform Implementation Fund, there is a billion dollars in that fund. There is some indication, I believe, that about $488 million of that has been spent by the IRS so far.
Mr. Miller. I think through 2012 that number sounds right to me.
Mr. Reed. About in that ballpark?
Mr. Miller. Yeah.
Mr. Reed. So how much more money do you anticipate using or needing in regards to implementation of that billion dollars that is out there?
Mr. Miller. I don’t know how much of that is left. I can answer it this way; I can answer what I need generally, right? My needs this year will be ‑‑
Mr. Reed. For implementation. I am just talking about implementation.
Mr. Miller. For implementation would be about ‑‑ we had asked for something in the realm of $360 million. We will spend less that that this year because we didn’t get it. And next year, in the budget, it is $439 million or something like that.
Mr. Reed. Okay. Because my understanding is that the IRS has spent 488, or that is over a period of time.
Mr. Miller. Through 2012. Yeah.
Mr. Reed. Through 2012.
Mr. Miller. Through 2012.
Mr. Reed. Okay. Total.
Mr. Miller. That is all those years together.
Mr. Reed. Okay. And so, going forward, just so I am clear, what was the number again that you think you need an additional request for?
Mr. Miller. We asked for, in the 2013 budget request for $360 million, or something like that. And if I am wrong, I will come back to you. And the 2014 request is $430 million or something like that.
Mr. Reed. For the implementation of the Affordable Care Act?
Mr. Miller. For implementation of the ACA.
Mr. Reed. Okay. Thank you.
With that, I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Boustany. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Paulsen, you are recognized.
Mr. Paulsen. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thanks, Mr. Miller, also for being here.
And I just want to follow up on a letter that I had sent over to your office and to you earlier this week about emerging patterns and trends. And I know we just had a conversation just a little bit ago, but, you know, the Inspector General had reported that by mid‑March in 2013 there had been about a 10 percent decline in the volume of tax returns received by the IRS compared to 2012.
What are those updated figures now on the overall total volume of returns that the IRS has received by the end of the tax season, now that that is completed, on the 15th? You gave some numbers. And how did that compare year over year to IRS 2013 projections and to the end‑of‑the‑season volumes back in April of 2012?
Mr. Miller. My understanding is that we are ‑‑ and my numbers are, I think, as of the 20th of April when we finally count up everything. It takes a little while. We are somewhat ‑‑ we are maybe 1 percent, less than 1 percent, down from where we were in 2012.
We did have a different filing pattern this year, which the Treasury Inspector General was referring to, and was correct. We started 2 weeks later, and we never really caught up until very late in the season. We were always behind where we were, and we were wondering where those returns were. They showed up eventually.
We will be looking to see why the pattern was a little different this year because we need to understand that. And I don’t have a surmise for you on that right now. We are still digging out.
Mr. Paulsen. So it was my understanding that, you know, last summer the IRS was predicting that returns would be up about 1.2 percent, and it is identifying, you know, what is the reason for the swing. You are just not quite sure yet?
I know the fiscal‑cliff issues and the delay of the start of the tax season, is that a contributing factor or ‑‑
Mr. Miller. I don’t really know yet.
Mr. Paulsen. Okay.
Mr. Miller. We are really still living it, to be honest with you. And a 2 percent swing one way or another wouldn’t be significant, in my mind, in any event. But we will go back and we will look at that.
Mr. Paulsen. Can I ask, too, were there any change in the number of extensions that were filed by April 15th this year compared to last year, year over year, that would lead you to expect a bigger‑than‑usual either extended or delayed tax season this year with many more taxpayers filing later returns?
Mr. Miller. Let me come back to you on that. I don’t have the extension number. Sorry.
Mr. Paulsen. Okay.
And then I guess, Mr. Miller, can you identify maybe, I guess, in the context of tax reform, are there any systematic implications that we should be looking at, that Congress should be looking at, as we look to tax reform and a potential future legislation? Because that is really the exercise the full committee has been going for.
But what other insights can you share just regarding trends, patterns? I know you are going to be looking at it, but, you know, in terms of what you are observing that we should be paying attention to.
Mr. Miller. The only thing I would ask is that, as you guys forge forward on tax reform ‑‑ which I think is wonderful because I think simpler will help all of us ‑‑ that we talk. Because our systems, as I indicated to Ms. Jenkins, as I indicated to everyone, our systems are not incredibly flexible, and the things that we will be able to do, and the time frames in which we will be able to do them, you ought to at least have in mind as you start talking about these things. Because I think that we would have important input, not to say, “No, we can’t do that,” but, “Here is how we can do that.”
Mr. Paulsen. Can you guess at all in terms of how much you maybe believe that either your improvements in detecting or preventing tax fraud might have contributed to any differences in expected return volumes by the season end on April 15th at all?
Mr. Miller. I don’t know, Congressman, because, as I say, those returns showed up eventually. I don’t know that I could ascribe any difference to the refund fraud work that we have done. But it is going to be something we look at.
Mr. Paulsen. Okay.
And one other question just on a different subject. But I was speaking to a taxpayer recently who was getting a tax return. They filed, supposed to get a substantial tax dollar return, actually a high‑dollar return. And they got a letter from the IRS saying, you will be getting your return, but we are going to be holding it for a couple of months. And so they followed up with the IRS, and they said that is the standard practice for sort of high‑dollar returns.
Can you comment on that? Does that sound familiar to you?
Mr. Miller. It does not sound familiar to me. And if you come back with more facts ‑‑
Mr. Paulsen. Okay.
Mr. Miller. ‑‑ we can engage in that discussion. There is no automatic stop for a high‑income return.
Mr. Paulsen. There is not. Okay.
Mr. Miller. There is not.
Mr. Paulsen. Okay.
Mr. Miller. There is a stop for if it hits a filter.
Mr. Paulsen. Okay.
Mr. Miller. And that might be something that we are talking about here, but I really don’t know without more detail. But there is no absolute stop because there is a big return coming through.
Mr. Paulsen. Okay. Good. Thank you.
I yield back.
Chairman Boustany. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. Kelly, you are recognized.
Mr. Kelly. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Mr. Miller, for being here.
Listen, coming from the private sector, I know that we have talked a little bit today about Obamacare and the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, how it is going to expand all this coverage. But it has also expanded an awful lot of cost, has it not? How many people ‑‑ I think Mr. Reed talked about the number of employees that the IRS has to handle.
And going back to the private sector, everybody I talk to back home is talking about the same thing you talk ‑‑ it is the complexity of what we have right now. This code is so complicated. And when I talk to people, there is a great fear whenever people start to fill out their tax return. That is why most Americans don’t do it themselves. I mean, they don’t understand it. They go to somebody else, hoping to get them off the hook in making a mistake. It is not, most people aren’t afraid of paying too much; they are afraid of paying too little. And they are afraid they are going to get audited and go through that process.
Tell me, from your standpoint, because we are talking about tax reform not just for the sake of tax reform but to make it easier for Americans to understand it. It has to be so difficult for you folks to go through it. And now with the addition of the Affordable Care Act, with the Supreme Court saying, well, this is a tax, now this adds another burden on you.
Just a little bit on the complexities. Because I know what the people I represent feel, but I have never talked to IRS people to find out how they feel about it.
Mr. Miller. I think there was a reference to former Commissioner Goldberg’s statement, is this a big lift? Yes, it is a big lift. But it is also the law. And so I sort of would disagree with the characterization that we have our core work, and then this other work. The law is the law, and we will go after whatever we are asked to go after in terms of executing and implementing.
I think, with respect to health care, it is a big law and a big lift. So is FATCA and the credit card reporting work that we are doing. There are very large things that are coming into our domain, and ACA is just one of those.
Mr. Kelly. Yeah, but ‑‑ okay, I understand that. But in the private sector, everybody is doing a tax return. There is a great deal of cost coming out of the taxpayer’s pocket, not just for the taxes that they owe, but to prepare for the taxes. So we have an awful lot of time invested, we have an awful lot of money invested.
The complexity of it is that ‑‑ and I know it is the law. I understand that part of it. But sometimes these unintended consequences drive the costs of this so high. And, again, I am talking about in the private sector, the pressure on taxpayers to be compliant is absolutely incredible.
And I got to tell you, for businesses, you know, you are talking about not just your competition in the same business you are in, you are talking about your government and trying to comply with all the things that we require them to do. There is a great deal of cost involved in that that goes into the final product. This stuff isn’t just absorbed someplace else. Everything we do adds cost to the goods or the services that we are providing or selling.
And that is why I wonder about this, because if it is really about collecting revenues to help the country run, wouldn’t it be a heck of a lot easier to make it somewhat simpler than the 70‑some‑thousand pages and all of the rest of the weight that comes with that on the people that supply every single penny that the government uses to supply all these services?
I think sometimes we get the idea that somehow there is this monarch, this wonderful person that showers the people with all this money, but it is, no, no, no, no, we grab you by the heels, turn you upside down, and shake as much out of you as we can, and then we use that. And, by the way, we still come up about a trillion short every year, 1.7 trillion short every year, even though we shake you as hard as we can.
But the cost, the cost of doing this is an incredible addition to people doing business and people leading their lives. That money comes out of somebody’s pocket or gets added to a finished product.
I can’t imagine what you go through every day with your folks. And I don’t know, how many thousands do you have working for you?
Mr. Miller. We have 78,000 permanent employees, and we are now around 97,000 during the filing season.
Mr. Kelly. 97,000. Any idea what that payroll is? You can ballpark it. Down here, we throw billions around pretty easy.
Mr. Miller. We are in the billions, there is no question about it. Our total budget is $11 billion, and we are probably 70 percent ‑‑
Mr. Kelly. Okay. And we are going up. What is the request this year? How much higher are we going?
Mr. Miller. $12.8 billion.
Mr. Kelly. 12.8. So it is only 1.8 billion more.
Every penny is provided by taxpayers, or they have cosigned on the note that we borrowed to do it. That is where I think the disconnect comes in. If this is about collecting revenue, let’s make it easier on the people that actually provide the revenue.
So, listen, I applaud you for what you are doing. I am not criticizing you. I am just saying, having lived this my whole life, this is a scary thing. Tax day is a scary thing for most Americans, because they are afraid.
Mr. Miller. It is.
Mr. Kelly. They are afraid of the government coming back on them for not paying enough taxes. And I have watched this year after year. And whenever we do a budget, which I don’t even know why we call it a budget, all we do is take a guess at what our ‑‑ we project our revenues, but we know that we are going to $1.5 trillion to $1.7 trillion more. We are going to spend more than that. I have never in my life sat down with anybody that says, “You know what? I think that is okay. I make $24,000 or $25,000 this year. I think I should go out and spend $37,000.”
That is the real number. That is what everyday Americans understand. What they don’t understand is how the heck you people do that year after year and think things are going be all right.
Not upset with you. I know you have a heavy load to lift.
Mr. Miller. Appreciate that.
Mr. Kelly. But so do all those people that provide the revenue.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Boustany. Thank you, Mr. Kelly.
One final bit of business, Commissioner Miller. Last September, at an Oversight Subcommittee hearing, you agreed to provide the subcommittee with all documents relating to the determination that the insurance premium subsidies apply to federally created exchanges.
There has been a dispute about this. You know, we know the subsidies in the law, it is pretty explicit, apply to State‑created exchanges, but the law did not state federally created exchanges to be applicable for these subsidies.
And the subcommittee has asked for these documents, and you committed, I think, previously to providing them. Will you commit again to getting us those documents, all ‑‑
Mr. Miller. To be honest with you, Mr. Chairman, I don’t remember doing that, but if I did, we will work with you to see what we can do, obviously.
Chairman Boustany. Okay. Well, I appreciate that. It is just unfinished business. And it may have been Commissioner Shulman. I can’t remember. But there was a commitment, and we would like to see those documents.
Mr. Miller. Okay.
Chairman Boustany. Well, we thank you for being here today. We appreciate your testimony, as always.
Please be advised Members may submit written questions to be answered later in writing. That would be made part of the record, as well as those questions.
Chairman Boustany. And, with that, I am pleased to adjourn this subcommittee.
Mr. Miller. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 3:41 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]
Member Submission For The Record