GOP Shields Rich Friends from IRS

For those that followed the fiscal year (FY) 2011 spending debate, you know that compromise pulled most of the more obnoxious riders, like those aimed at Planned Parenthood and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), out of the continuing resolution (CR). But House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) succeeded in slipping a few riders into the final budget agreement, including one that bans funding for President Obama's initiative to hire additional Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents to crack down on high income tax cheats.

I'll take my campaign contributions now, please.

In addition to the rider, congressional negotiators rejected the administration's request for increased funding and agreed only to continue funding the IRS at FY 2010 levels, which provides about $12.1 billion. Of this total, roughly $4.1 billion goes for operations support, $2.28 billion toward taxpayer services, $264 million for business systems modernization, and $5.5 billion toward enforcement.

Of that $5.5 billion, though, none of it can go toward bringing additional IRS agents on board to crack down on tax evasion.

Speaker Boehner's office released a statement on the issue, remarking, "The Obama administration has sought increased federal funding for the [IRS] – money that could be used to hire additional agents to enforce the administration's agenda on a variety of issues. This increased funding is denied in the agreement."

Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic questions the Speaker's giddiness in pointing out the concession, observing,

It's true by the way: Hiring more IRS agents would have allowed the Obama administration to enforce its agenda, insofar as its agenda is to make sure that people don't cheat on their taxes.

Cohn goes on to note, "[S]caling back enforcement of tax evasion may be the textbook case of a budget cut that saves a little money up front but costs a great deal more in the future."

Yup. There are several reasons why the president continues to ask for increased enforcement funding, not least of which being that the Bush administration cut the department's legs out from under it through underfunding, but it just makes fiscal sense when for every dollar you invest you get three to four dollars in return.

Image by Flickr user republicanconference used under a Creative Commons license.

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