Last year, Congress cut the IRS budget by about $300 million as part of the government’s austerity measures. But despite this trimming in its finances, the IRS has been hiring new staff members faster than it did in previous years. The agency reports that in 2009, the average time taken to hire new staff was 157 days, or about 5 months. In contrast, this year the IRS managed to bring in new staff within 80 days, according to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
The “hire in 80 days or less” target was set for the IRS by the Office of Personnel Management, which the agency has duly met. The TIGTA’s report noted that this was largely due to the fact that the IRS has automated more of its hiring procedures and enforced better controls over the entire process.
In his report, the TIGTA said, “(The IRS) will need to continue to focus on keeping hiring timelines low and making additional improvements. If not, as the economy improves and the IRS competes more with the private sector, the IRS may encounter difficulties attracting highly qualified candidates.”
The process of hiring new staff each year has been a traditional practice of the IRS especially at the onset of each tax season to help in managing tax returns. The agency has about 100,000 workers on staff.
The hiring process this year has been inextricably linked to last year’s hotly debated budget cut. The IRS and their supporters claim that reducing the budget would adversely affect their efforts to bring in new staff to help in collecting taxes, and thus would defeat the purpose of the budget cut in the first place. But some Republicans argued that in previous years when there were budget increases, it did not lead to any marked improvement in revenue collection. Hence, last year’s budget cut was justified.
Despite the pros and cons of the budget cut, the TIGTA has noted that the IRS is now doing a better job at hiring new workers quickly.