Subcommittee moves against IRS closures

Congress may prevent the Internal Revenue Service from closing 68 of its tax assistance centers.

Language approved June 15 by the House Appropriations Committee’s Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee would fund the centers through fiscal 2006.

A decision by the IRS to close 68 of its 400 walk-in assistance centers has been heavily criticized by some of the agency's watchdog groups, including the IRS Oversight Board and the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Customer service would suffer as a result of the closures, those critics have said.

IRS officials said the rising use of the agency’s Web site and toll-free number for direct tax assistance has made those 68 centers unnecessary. The move could save the agency almost $50 million a year.

The subcommittee’s plan would also require the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to study the impact of the centers' closure. Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, issued a statement praising the efforts of the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.).

"These closings and cutbacks are a bad idea that will backfire," Kelley said.

The subcommittee also approved a total fiscal 2006 IRS budget of $10.5 billion, about $130 million less than the Bush administration requested but $313 million above the agency’s fiscal 2005 funding.

The subcommittee’s spending bill now faces a committee vote on June 21, after which it will be sent to the full House for consideration.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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