WASHINGTON — Rep. Charles Boustany on Thursday criticized the nation’s overly complicated tax code and the IRS’ proposed expansion in helping implement the Affordable Care Act, which is often called Obamacare.
Boustany, R-Lafayette, chaired the annual hearing of the Internal Revenue Service’s operations and expenses before the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee as the IRS prepares to add employees next year. The IRS will be in charge of collecting penalties — “shared responsibility payments” — for those opting not to acquire minimum essential health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Boustany noted the IRS is seeking to increase its budget by more than $1 billion to a total of about $13 billion in order to enhance its digital infrastructure and add more than 6,000 employees, most of whom would be in customer service, as part of the IRS’ role in the health care law.
“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,” Boustany said.
“Even as the IRS has made progress with taxpayer ID theft and improper payments, it has acknowledged it can do more,” Boustany added. “The truth is that Obamacare is pulling the IRS away from its core mission.”
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., argued, though, that the health care law will expand coverage to 27 million more Americans and that it is already helping cover more young adults and children with pre-existing conditions.
“This is a key year for the agency (IRS) and the Affordable Care Act,” Lewis said. “This is the year the health care reform law is being put into operation. The IRS will play an important role as it helps to deliver hundreds of billions in premium tax credits to American families next year.”
Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller said progress is being made in improving efficiencies and rooting out fraud. But he argued that three consecutive years of spending cuts and the current across-the-board sequestration budget cuts are causing harm.
“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,” Miller said.
Despite the challenges, Boustany did praise the IRS though for its handling of the 2013 tax season.
“The IRS managed to wrap up the 2013 filing season with efficiency and few delays,” Boustany said. “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.”
After the hearing, Boustany, who supports repealing the Affordable Care Act, said he opposes the proposed IRS funding increases and that he also wants to keep the sequester cuts in place.
Instead, Boustany said, Congress must focus on “line-by-line” reform of the “entirely too complicated” federal tax code by simplifying it and “hopefully” lowering tax rates.
American taxpayers are “fearful of being audited” and many have to pay professional tax prepares to help them deal with an unnecessarily complex tax system, he said.
“We have to have fiscal sanity,” Boustany said.