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IRS commissioner admits something most taxpayers have been saying for decades


IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Tuesday admitted that the tax code is too complicated, and that it should be simplified.

"You are correct, the tax code has gotten to be extremely unwieldy," Koskinen told the Senate Finance Committee.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen admitted Tuesday that the U.S. tax code is getting more complicated, and needs to be simplified for taxpayers. Image: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Koskinen was responding to a question from Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who said the tax code is getting longer and longer all the time, which is forcing people to spend even more time doing their taxes each year.

"I am a great believer in tax simplification for the very reasons you mention," Koskinen said in reply. "If we could simplify the tax code, it would… make life simpler for taxpayers. It would be easier for them to determine how much they owe and how to pay it."

But while Koskinen seemed to agree with Hatch about the need to simplify people's taxes, he didn't take Hatch's larger point about reducing the scope of the IRS's responsibilities. Hatch said the reach of the IRS is expanding, and noted its new responsibility for enforcing Obamacare taxes.

Hatch said that vast expansion of authority is why the IRS has been asking for more funding each year. "It isn't the IRS's budget, it's an ever-growing set of tax laws, an ever-increasing number of federal programs the IRS is charged with administrating," Hatch said.

But Koskinen didn't go that far, and instead reiterated the need for much more funding at the IRS so the agency can do its job and help provide support for taxpayers. The current IRS budget is $10.9 billion for the current fiscal year, and Koskinen noted that the Obama administration has asked for $12.9 billion for the next year, a $2 billion bump.

"The level of funding would provide substantial support for our mission, and help the agency move ahead in a number of critical areas," Koskinen said.

The IRS notoriously spent millions of dollars several years ago to upgrade its computers, but Koskinen said one way they would use more money is to do more upgrades.

"We're running applications that were running when John F. Kennedy was president," he added. "That's how antiquated the system is."

Koskinen added in his testimony that the IRS is using COBOL programming language. "COBOL was considered outdated back when I served as chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion and it is extremely difficult to find IT experts who are versed in this language," he said.

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