Pursuing a Single Mission (or Something Closer to It) for the IRS
25 Pages Posted: 5 May 2016 Last revised: 29 Apr 2018
Date Written: May 4, 2016
It is often said that taxes are the lifeblood of government. As the nation’s tax collector, the IRS serves a critical function without which the federal government would cease to function. Yet the IRS is an agency in crisis — mired in scandal, chronically underfunded, overreliant on automation, and failing to provide taxpayers with the support they need to comply with the tax laws and pay their taxes. This Essay argues that a major contributor to the IRS’s woes is Congress’s penchant in recent decades for utilizing the IRS to administer social welfare and regulatory programs that are only tangentially related to the IRS’s traditional revenue raising mission. This Essay examines the consequences of that choice and calls for reforming the IRS’s organizational structure to segregate the revenue collection function from the biggest and most politically fraught social welfare and regulatory programs that currently fall within the IRS’s jurisdiction. To that end, this Essay suggests giving serious consideration either to spinning off several non-revenue raising programs from IRS oversight or to splitting up the IRS altogether and distributing its many functions among other new or existing agencies.
Keywords: Internal Revenue Service, tax expenditures, tax administration, administrative law, agency
JEL Classification: K23, K34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation