According to a report from the National Taxpayer Advocate, a government watchdog, at the end of the 2021 filing season in May, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had a backlog of 35 million tax returns that still needed to be manually processed. The backlog is nearly three times larger than it was in 2020, and a fourfold increase from 2019.
Meanwhile, the agency’s budget has fallen by something like 20 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars since 2010, resulting in the elimination of 22 percent of its staff. At the same time, the number of taxpayers has grown, and shifts in global economic structures have resulted in changes to the mix of income sources the agency has to deal with.
Why is the IRS being crippled to make it unable to fulfill its mission? Primarily because of Republican sabotage of the agency. The modern GOP is committed to lowering federal taxes on the wealthy, irrespective of the nation’s contemporary tax rates, budget deficit, or national spending. Some Republicans have even called called for repealing the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and making federal income taxes unconstitutional. The 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913, allows Congress to levy a tax on income from any source.
Specific numbers: Since 2011, Congress has been cutting the IRS’s budget, which fell from $14 billion that year to $11.5 billion in 2020. As a result, the agency’s enforcement division cut its payroll by 30 percent—even as the number of individual tax returns in the U.S. grew by more than 7 percent.
Because of the IRS’s incapacitation, the U.S. is losing approximately $1 trillion in unpaid taxes every year, most of which redounds to the benefit of the nation’s wealthiest one percent. The rich are paying less tax while the rest of us pay more.
It’s time that Biden and the Democrats attacked this problem. The well-to-do should be paying higher taxes than the middle and lower classes. It’s time to restore justice.