IRS Finds the Money to Recruit 600 to 700 Enforcement Employees

IRS chief John Koskinen said, "This is a good development for our tax system." IRS chief John Koskinen said, "This is a good development for our tax system." Susan Walsh/AP

The budget-crunched Internal Revenue Service has found the revenue to bring on 600 to 700 new employees to improve enforcement of tax laws, Commissioner John Koskinen said Tuesday in a memo to staff.

The expansion—first reported by The Wall Street Journal—“will be our first significant enforcement hiring in more than five years,” said the memo provided to Government Executive by the IRS. “This is a good development for our tax system. When you look at the IRS overall, every dollar invested in us returns at least $4 to the Treasury. Each enforcement position typically returns almost $10 to the U.S. Treasury for every dollar spent — and in many instances, much more.”

The decision made halfway through the fiscal year comes after the IRS won a $290 million increase from Congress last fall following five years of steady budget cuts. That money went largely to improving customer service during filing season.

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The new enforcement employees are coming aboard in response to “the large number of retirements and attrition among enforcement employees,” Koskinen said while wishing employees a happy Public Service Recognition Week. “In previous years, job losses across the agency have helped us absorb the funding cuts we have received, but left us with large gaps in various areas across the agency. This year, we’ve determined that we have the resources available to hire these employees as a result of the rate of attrition in enforcement and your continuing dedication to find efficiencies to help us with the budget.”

The hiring will come in two waves of job announcements. The first over the next few weeks will recruit entry-level revenue agents and officers largely in the Small Business/Self Employed tax division, as well as some special agents in the Criminal Investigation division, Wage and Investment division and the Chief Counsel’s Office.

The second wave later in the year will provide employees with opportunities to be promoted to higher-level positions to assist with high-profile enforcement areas, including international tax issues, refund fraud and identity theft, the commissioner said.

He reminded employees that the IRS budget by law is allocated to specific areas, so that “unlike a household budget, we cannot easily move money from one area to another.” He said he would continue to work with Congress and give public speeches favoring the Obama administration’s fiscal 2017 budget request, which would allow hiring of 5,000 more employees.

Attrition has shrunk the agency’s workforce by 2,000 employees over the past year, he said. “While adding 600 to 700 new enforcement hires will not replace those who have left, it will help fill key gaps in our enforcement workforce created by years of attrition and will provide existing employees promotion and developmental opportunities, including serving as mentors and instructors for the new staff,” he wrote. 

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