Congress May End IRS's Use of Private Debt Collectors

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Two Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, Steve Rothman (D-NY) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) have introduced a bill that would end the IRS's program using private companies to assist in collecting delinquent taxes. This comes after Nina Olsen, the National Taxpayer Advocate, who heads an independent office within the IRS, called upon Congress to end the private collection program in her annual report. The problem is that the private collectors receive a commission of 21 to 24 cents for each dollar they collect, while it's argued that IRS employees could do the same work for just 3 cents for every dollar collected. IRS Commissioner Mark Everson admitted last year that the IRS staff could collect these debts for less cost but said that the agency lacked the funding to do so.

Congress needs a mechanism in its budget process to recognize the increase in revenues that will result from any boost given to IRS enforcement, which only shows up in the budget as a spending increase. This is a problem that comes up in the debate over closing the Tax Gap. One of the suggestions Bob McIntyre offered for closing the Tax Gap in his testimony before the Senate Budget Committee last week was to simply to increase funding for IRS enforcement. The IRS estimates that somewhere between $5 and $30 could be collected for every new dollar of funding for enforcement.

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