Seven former Internal Revenue Service commissioners dating back to the Kennedy administration have written a joint letter to the leaders of Congress’s appropriations committees urging them to reconsider proposed cuts in the budget for the agency they once ran.

They noted that the committees have proposed to reduce the IRS’s fiscal year 2015 budget of $10.9 billion by $838 million in the House version of the budget, and $470 million in the Senate version. They pointed out that the budget cuts would be the sixth year in a row for the IRS. 

“The appropriations reductions for the IRS over the last five years total $1.2 billion, more than a 17 percent cut from the IRS appropriation for 2010,” wrote the former IRS commissioners. “None of us ever experienced, nor are we aware of, any IRS appropriations reductions of this magnitude over such a prolonged period of time.”

The former IRS commissioners signing the letter include Mortimer M. Caplin, who served from 1961 to 1964, Sheldon S. Cohen (1965-1969), Lawrence B. Gibbs, (1986-1989), Fred T. Goldberg Jr. (1989-1992), Shirley D. Peterson (1992-1993), Margaret M. Richardson (1993-1997), and Charles O. Rossotti (1997-2002).

“Over the last fifty years, none of us has ever witnessed anything like what has happened to the IRS appropriations over the last five years and the impact these appropriations reductions are having on our tax system,” they wrote. “The impact on the IRS of these reductions is that the IRS has lost approximately 15,000 full-time employees through attrition over the last five years, with more losses likely in the current fiscal year unless Congress reverses the funding trend.”

They said they found the reductions in IRS appropriations difficult to understand in light of the fact that, at the same time these reductions have occurred, Congress repeatedly has passed major tax legislation, substantially increasing the IRS workload.

“The IRS personnel reductions come at a time when the IRS is stretched to the breaking point to cope with tax enforcement challenges attributable to global and domestic changes that are impacting our tax system,” wrote the former commissioners. “It is clear to each of us that the IRS appropriations reductions over the last five years materially and adversely affect the ability of the IRS to assist taxpayers who are trying to comply with their tax obligations, as well as the ability of the IRS to detect and deter taxpayers who have not complied with their tax obligations.”

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