The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, H.R. 244, has been officially passed by Congress on Thursday on a 79-18 vote. This bill provides the funding for the federal government throughout the rest of its fiscal or financial year.
A portion of this funding is reserved for the IRS with a total of $11.2 billion. This sum is used to fund the following services and programs:
IRS tax payer services ($2.2 billion) divided into:
– $8.9 million on Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program
– $12 million for low-income clinic grants for taxpayers
–$15 million for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance grants
–$206 million for the Tax Payer Advocate Program with $5 million reserved for case work connected to identity theft.
–$290 million is dedicated to improving customer service, cybersecurity, identifying and preventing refund fraud as well as identity theft.
–$4.9 billion for IRS tax enforcement activities
–$3.6 billion for operations support
–$290 million for business system modernization
The bill is also accompanied by IRS rules which include:
- The IRS commissioner must submit his spending plans to the House and Senate appropriations committees in order to receive the additional money.
- The bill also prohibits the Treasury Department from spending any of the $3 million dedicated to the development and acquisition of automatic date processing equipment, software and services, including building repairs and renovations in order to pay for IRS operations support or business system modernization.
- The IRS is also strictly forbidden from rehiring former employees without checking their conduct and tax compliance status. Paying for bonuses also goes under the same umbrella.
- The IRS is also not allowed to spend funds on any videos without the consent of the Service Wide Editorial Board first. The video has to be deemed appropriate beforehand.
- Money cannot be spent on conferences unless they adhere to certain documentation requirements, policies and procedures issued by the the trinity of Chief Financial Officer, Agency-Wide Shared Services and the Human Capital Office.
These rules were made in order to curb wasteful spending after reports of Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island themed training videos caused the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to write a series of reports about these frivolous activities back in 2013.
The inspector general also revealed that the agency spent $6.1 million on two equally frivolous conferences. One of those weeklong conferences even featured a $49,516 parody video.
- The IRS is also forbidden from discriminating against an organization based on its ideological beliefs. This rule is also in response to yet another scandal back in 2013 when the IRS administered the use of unacceptable criteria that helped identify organizations solely based on their names and political stance. The prime focus should have been on the organization’s activities and whether or not they have met the requirements for tax-exemption.
- The bill also forbids the White House from ordering the IRS to reveal the tax-exemption status of organizations.