Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the influential chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, has written a letter to the acting head of the Internal Revenue Service complaining that the IRS’s decision to delay tax season because of the government shutdown will be a financial burden to people who count on early tax refunds.
The IRS announced Tuesday that the 16-day government shutdown this month had delayed the testing of its tax-processing systems, and it was still dealing with a backlog of correspondence it received during the recently ended shutdown (see IRS: Shutdown to Delay Tax Season). In a letter Wednesday, addressed to IRS acting commissioner Danny Werfel, Camp said it appears the agency is putting a higher priority on implementing ObamaCare than tending to its core mission of processing nearly 150 million tax returns.
“The IRS claims that it will be unable to process tax returns on time, despite being able to do so multiple times in the past when it has been responsible for adopting major changes to tax law,” Camp wrote. “Given that the agency has already had nine full months, and still has nearly three more, there is no reason the IRS should not be able to do its job on time. The failure of the IRS to start the filing season as scheduled will be a financial burden to potentially millions of hardworking taxpayers who depend on an early tax refund to pay their rent, make a car payment or pay off bills from the holiday season. While the IRS says it cannot start the filing season on time, somehow it found the most essential operation to be the implementation of the President’s health care law. The IRS needs to explain why implementing the President’s health care law is more important than processing tax returns in a timely manner.”
House Republicans, including Camp, had held up approval of a continuing resolution to fund the government, in addition to legislation to raise the debt ceiling, in an effort to force the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress to agree to defund or at least delay by a year the health care reform law.
Ultimately, after Obama and congressional Democrats refused to give in to those and other demands, Republican lawmakers agreed to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling as pressure mounted and their poll numbers declined precipitously.
Camp’s Democratic counterpart on the Ways and Means Committee, ranking member Sander Levin, D-Mich., had a far different reaction to the IRS’s announcement of a tax season delay.
“This is yet another unfortunate effect of a shutdown that Republicans should have never caused,” Levin said in a statement Tuesday. “The entirety of the shutdown’s harmful impact won’t be known for months, if not longer. But what is already clear is that it has cost our economy tens of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs. This tax-filing delay just adds insult to injury for Americans hoping to get a jump start on their tax refunds in January.”
Camp’s press office, however, said the IRS’s delay effectively “stiffs early filers as it dedicates time to ObamaCare.” No later than November 6, Camp called on the IRS to provide the following information:
• Is it your position that IRS officials working on ACA implementation are essential for the protection of “life or property?”
• Notwithstanding the plan, which deemed 81 IRS employees as essential for ObamaCare implementation, how many IRS employees worked in this capacity during the shutdown, and for how many hours?
• What system changes, updates or testing is necessary to open the start of the filing season given that no substantive changes have been made to tax law over the last year?
• Specifically, what additional changes or testing does the IRS need to complete prior to the opening of the filing season that are directly related to the implementation of ObamaCare?
• How many IRS staff would have been required to have been deemed essential in order to ensure that tax filing season could open on time?
• According to the IRS’s announcement, “nearly 150 million,” filers will face delays. To date, how many applications for ObamaCare has the IRS been directly involved in processing?
• Did the IRS consult with the Treasury Department or White House in the creation of the Plan or regarding its operation during the shutdown? and
• Provide all communication between IRS and the U.S. Department of the Treasury and/or White House regarding the Plan and/or ObamaCare implementation during the shutdown.
Camp’s office noted that in light of the fact that the IRS is 13 weeks away from the originally scheduled start of tax filing season, it claims it cannot make-up 12 work days lost during the government shutdown. In the letter, Camp pointed out the IRS did not delay last year’s filing season after changes to the tax code were signed into law just 13 days before its start.