Thursday, March 05, 2009

Bush privatization program gets axe

Government could do the job better than political cronies. This has to happen throughout the public sector as one means of eliminating wasteful spending. Do what works best for the public, not for the politicians' friends. Glad we have Obama in the job. Complete AP story here.

IRS to drop private debt collection program

The Internal Revenue Service is eliminating a program that uses private debt collectors to go after tax delinquents, the agency announced Thursday evening.

The decision came after the IRS reviewed the program and determined that IRS employees could better do the work. The decision, however, was quickly criticized by a key supporter of the program in Congress.

The program is relatively small, bringing in a little more than $80 million since it was started in 2006. But it has caused big political headaches for the IRS.

The union representing IRS workers and the National Taxpayer Advocate, an independent ombudsman within the IRS, oppose the program, as do some Democrats in Congress. Other powerful lawmakers from both political parties support it. . . .

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said earlier Thursday that the program should never have been started. . . .

The program costs about $7.6 million a year to administer, and private contractors are allowed to keep about a quarter of the taxes they collect.

The contracts the private agencies were working under expire Friday. The IRS has been reviewing the program for the past month to determine whether to extend the agreements.

There have been numerous attempts in Congress to kill the program since former President George W. Bush signed it into law. A massive spending bill pending in the Senate includes a provision that would cut off funding for the privatization program. The bill, which would fund federal agencies through September, could be voted on next week.

"After a thorough review of this program, I have decided not to renew the contracts," IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said in a statement. "I believe this work is best done by IRS employees, and I believe we have strong support from the administration and the Congress for increased IRS enforcement resources going forward." . . .

"Collection of taxes is an inherent function of our federal government," said Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. "American taxpayers deserve to work with the trained professionals from the IRS to work though any issues they have."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said, "I commend the Obama administration for doing what the last administration refused to do -- provide an honest evaluation of the merits of contracting out this public service to private agencies."

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