Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Why does the IRS need $80 billion? Just look at its cafeteria.

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Catherine Rampell has an excellent article (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post with photos by Matthew Busch. It’s truly worth reading, and scrolling through the working environment of the IRS shows why they need the money. The article begins:

[The cafeteria in the Austin office of the IRS] is part of what the IRS calls the “Pipeline”: a 1970s-era assembly line used to process tax returns at several locations around the country. And it might give you a sense of why Congress is on the verge of handing the agency $80 billion through the Inflation Reduction Act — not only for more enforcement but also for tech modernization.

As of July 29, the IRS had a backlog of 10.2 million unprocessed individual returns. Blame the pandemic, sure, but also the agency’s embarrassingly outdated, paper-based system, which leaves stacks and stacks of returns cluttering shelves, hallways and even the cafeteria.

On the Pipeline, paper tax returns aren’t scanned into computers; instead, IRS employees manually keystroke the numbers from each document into the system, digit by digit.

Even if you, Joe Taxpayer, file your taxes electronically (as most Americans do), you still might land in paper purgatory. Any issues with your “e-filed” return, and the IRS sends you a letter; then, you must reply by snail mail or fax.

Remember fax machines?

Taxpayers are trapped in this time warp because Congress has systemically underinvested in the IRS. Its funding was cut for most of the past decade, despite the agency receiving evermore responsibilities: stimulus checks, child tax credit payments, Obamacare enforcement, foreign bank account tracking and, lately, hunting down Russian yachts. Without reliable, long-term funding guarantees, the IRS has struggled to upgrade its systems.

I recently took a (chaperoned) tour of the Pipeline, which is usually off-limits to journalists. Imagine Willy Wonka’s secretive chocolate factory, but instead of gumdrops and lollipops it’s … paper. Everywhere, paper.

Keep scrolling and see for yourself. . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall) 
.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 11:34 am

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