Taxman Shrugged

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on January 16, 2015

The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at WSJ written by the editor, James Taranto.

Taxman Shrugged
…“Taxpayers could see delays in getting their refunds this year – as well as ‘unacceptable’ customer service – as the IRS commissioner warns budget cuts are forcing the agency to cut back,” Fox News reports.

The commissioner, John Koskinen, issued the premonishment in an email to Internal Revenue Service employees:

He said the cuts could force the IRS to shut down operations for two days later this year, resulting in unpaid furloughs for employees and service cuts for taxpayers.

But in the near-term, the commissioner said cuts in overtime and temporary staff hours could cause delays in refunds.

“People who file paper tax returns could wait an extra week – or possibly longer – to see their refund,” he wrote, adding: “Taxpayers with errors or questions on their returns that require additional manual review will also face delays.”

He warned that IRS customer service, which already has faced heavy criticism, could be “diminished further.” Koskinen set a low bar for what taxpayers can expect.

“We now anticipate an even lower level of telephone service than before, which raises the real possibility that fewer than half of taxpayers trying to call us will actually reach us. During Fiscal Year 2014, 64 percent were able to get through. Those who do reach us will face extended wait times that are unacceptable to all of us,” Koskinen wrote.

Americans for Tax Reform notes that the Taxpayer Advocate Service, a sort of IRS ombudsman, reported to Congress yesterday that the phone service already stinks: “The IRS does not answer the phone at local offices and has even removed the option it once provided for taxpayers, including the elderly and disabled, to leave a message.” The automated telephone system specifically instructs elderly and disabled taxpayers to submit any requests for “special accommodations” by email.

This comes at a time when the IRS, along with many taxpayers, faces new workload burdens as a result of President Obama’s “signature achievement.” The 2014 tax year, for which returns are due three months from today, is the first in which ObamaCare’s biggest tax-code complications – including the tax on the uninsured and tax subsidies for medical insurance policies purchased through state-established exchanges – are in effect.

As we noted last February, some taxpayers were delayed in filing their 2013 returns because of the IRS’s tardiness in finalizing instructions for form 8960, the ObamaCare “net investment tax.” The changes this year, as London’s Daily Mail notes, are far more complicated.

The good news is that if medical insurance is part of your employee benefit package (and was for the full year), you’re largely unaffected by the changes: You need only attest on your 1040 or simplified equivalent that you met what is euphemistically called the “individual responsibility” provision and thus are not liable for the tax on forgoing insurance.

Otherwise, though, you’ve got some forms to fill out. The Mail gives a sense of what’s in store for the lucky duckies who bought exchange policies. All we can say is, we hope you like alphabet soup.

Publication 5187, “Health Care Law: What’s New for Individuals and Families,” includes “a four-page glossary of terms, definitions and acronyms just to understand it all,” the Mail reports:

Forget the obvious ones like Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and Federal Poverty Line (FPL).

This year Americans need to know about Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) and Exemption Certificate Numbers (ECNs).

There’s also the SLCSP, which stands for the “second lowest cost silver plan.” That’s the benchmark insurance plan available in each ZIP code that the government uses to calculate the maximum allowable tax credit anyone can claim for paying their premiums.

The “National Average Bronze Plan Premium” (NABPP) is another critical number. That figure, the IRS says, “is used in calculating the shared responsibility payment (SRP).”

It helps to know what the shared responsibility payment is, too. That’s the new tax [on the uninsured].

And then comes the switcheroo: “A table of NABPP amounts can be found in the Instructions for Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions, and in Publication 4012, ACA tab.”

This is where tax filers reach for a bottle – either Tums or bourbon.

It’s all rather comical – but also galling. The IRS’s abuse of power in its harassment of conservative nonprofits aimed in substantial part at suppressing opposition to ObamaCare. That is, the IRS traduced the free-speech rights of citizens in order to preserve a law expanding IRS power and creating more work for IRS agents.

Now the commissioner complains that the IRS has too much work and not enough resources and threatens to make life even more difficult for taxpayers. It’s like the guy who killed his parents and then pleaded for mercy because he was an orphan.

For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”