Are You Enjoying This Awful Tax Season?

Proper forms are crucial.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/ Bloomberg via Getty Images

Happy Tax Day, America! How has your filing gone? If you needed any help from the Internal Revenue Service, chances are it has been awful.

Lines of taxpayers seeking assistance have looped around the block at some IRS branches this year. Waiting times have stretched into hours. An estimated six in 10 callers to the agency's toll-free lines haven't been able to get through, and those who have could get help with only the most basic questions. Everyone else is free to try their luck on the agency's bewildering website.

This dysfunction shouldn't really be a surprise, as Bloomberg reports. The IRS has become a terrible place to work in recent years, with stagnant salaries, staffing shortages, archaic technology and budget cuts so severe that some employees are buying their own office supplies. Not to mention the extravagant rhetorical assaults from Capitol Hill.

It didn't have to be this way. Since 2010, the IRS budget has been slashed by $1.2 billion, its workforce has declined by 11 percent, and its funding for training has plunged by 83 percent. Congress enacted these cuts even while giving the agency more elaborate responsibilities -- such as the tax provisions of the Affordable Care Act and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act -- and even as tax-related identity fraud has soared.

Some members of Congress have said that the budget cuts were intended to punish the IRS for past misdeeds or to force improvements in management. Set aside the peculiar logic of "punishing" a federal agency. In imposing the cuts, Congress is simply making life harder for taxpayers, especially the poor and elderly who often need assistance with their filings. Cutting back on training, persisting with obsolete systems and encouraging competent staff to find work elsewhere only intensifies the IRS's problems. And it enables tax cheats of all variety: With audits and investigations plummeting, the government will forgo at least $2 billion in revenue that should have been collected this year.

In short, Congress has written an outrageously complicated tax code, repeatedly cut funding to help voters with their returns and made cheating easier than ever. You don't need an accountant to figure out that this is a formula for disaster.

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