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Thune-Collins Bill Forces IRS to Prioritize Taxpayer Customer Service

Senators’ legislation would prohibit the IRS from making new enforcement hires until basic taxpayer service targets are met

April 27, 2023

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Taxation and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Oversight, and Susan Collins (R-Maine), vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today reintroduced the Increase Reliable Services Now Act, legislation that would prohibit the IRS from hiring new enforcement employees until basic taxpayer service targets – including improved phone services and more efficient tax return processing – are reached. The bill would also prohibit the IRS from using enforcement appropriations in the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA) to audit taxpayers with annual incomes of less than $400,000 at a greater rate than at the date of the IRA’s enactment.

“The IRS has an abysmal track record when it comes to providing customer service to taxpayers,” said Thune. “Rather than improving those services, Washington Democrats decided to supersize the agency by infusing it with $80 billion in new funding, with more than half of it – about $46 billion – being used to ramp up enforcement activities with only 4 percent going toward improving taxpayer services. The overwhelmingly disproportionate funding toward enforcement will not bring relief to Americans who are waiting on their tax refunds, nor will it help them more easily reach an IRS representative. Put simply, this common-sense legislation would prohibit the IRS from making any new enforcement hires until basic taxpayer service targets are met.”

“Americans deserve a government that is responsive, yet the IRS has consistently failed to provide taxpayers with the service they should expect,” said Collins. “Our legislation would fix the IRS’ misplaced priorities by requiring the agency to focus on improving customer service and reducing backlogs.”

The Increase Reliable Services Now Act would prohibit the IRS from hiring new “examinations and collections” (enforcement) employees until basic taxpayer service targets are reached. Specifically, the bill would prohibit the hiring of new IRS enforcement employees until the agency maintains adequate taxpayer phone service (at least 90 percent of phone calls being answered, as measured by level of access, and an average speed of answering phone calls in four minutes or less, for six consecutive months).

The bill would also require at least 90 percent of IRS employees to work in person at their job sites; prohibit any hiring, other than return processing and call center personnel, until the completion of original, amended, and suspended tax returns, and the resolution of accounts management cases, is not in excess of 5 million items; and require the IRS to provide quarterly reports on the status of taxpayer service metrics and targets.

Thune recently questioned IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel at a Senate Finance Committee hearing and pressed him on the IRS’s disproportionate funding toward enforcement activities compared to taxpayer services, as well as the agency’s priority to advance Green New Deal-style energy policies. Thune also discussed his IRS Funding Accountability Act, legislation that would give Congress a direct say in how the unprecedented $80 billion in new funding could be spent, hold the IRS more accountable, and provide greater transparency to taxpayers.