By Jacob F. Grant | Watchdog.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Still mired in scandal for its mishandling of nonprofit political groups, the Internal Revenue Service is prepping for a new role: chief enforcement arm of the Affordable Care Act.
That task will require new agents — 6,700, the IRS figures — and more money — about $1 billion more than the current budget.
Confronted with the tax agency’s 9-percent increase in its 2014 budget, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., blasted Deputy IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel at a meeting of the House Committee on Ways and Means Thursday morning.
After reading off a long list of instances of waste, fraud, excess and abuse at the agency over the past several years, Ryan demanded to know how the IRS felt it had the “moral authority” to ask for more money. He actually sounded almost hurt by the request.
Werfel meekly responded that the additional funding was essential to the agency’s expanded enforcement mandate.
The agency’s latest funding boost follows an increase of nearly $1.5 billion and 1,200 agents already dedicated to the implementation of ACA.
More commonly known as Obamacare, the ACA contains 18 separate tax provisions and 47 monitoring functions. It will fall on the IRS to collect taxes and to enforce one of the key provisions of the law — ensuring that every individual in the country has health insurance, and levying a tax on those that do not. It will also be responsible for collecting taxes from employers that do not offer insurance, manufacturers of medical devices and drug companies.
In addition to its taxation and enforcement efforts, the IRS will be involved intimately in building and administering the state insurance exchanges, will have a role in monitoring health insurance markets and will have complete access to all medical records.
Some view the agency’s rising power with suspicion. Speakers at last week’s tea party rally on the Capitol steps raised the possibility that the IRS’s influence on health care decisions could be affected by an individual’s political ideology.
The IRS is working closely with the Obama administration to coordinate the ACA rollout. The IRS commissioner and health care counsel visited the White House a total of 586 times since the act was signed. Such visits have occurred far, far more frequently than in previous administrations, signifying the complexity of the IRS’s new role.
Contact Jacob F. Grant at [email protected]