September 25, 2023

The Internal Revenue Service building in Washington.

SAUL LOEB / AFP via Getty Images

The Treasury Department estimates that the difference between Americans’ tax bill and actual payment will grow to $ 7 trillion over the next decade.

In prepared remarks, Deputy Secretary of State Mark Mazur told Congress on Thursday that the so-called tax gap would only worsen over the next few years without further funding from lawmakers.

He added that the gross tax gap estimate for 2019 alone is around $ 580 billion.

“Over the next ten years, the gross tax gap is expected to be around $ 7 trillion, about 15 percent of all taxes owed,” Mazur told House legislators.

“A larger tax gap leads to the following results: higher tax rates elsewhere in the system, lower revenues to fund the country’s budget priorities, or higher budget deficits and higher national debt,” he added. “Widespread and persistent violations also undermine confidence in the fairness of our tax system.”

Mazur attributed the persistent and growing tax gap to insufficient funding for the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS budget has been cut by 20% over the past 10 years, resulting in a number of layoffs and a significant drop in audit rates.

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The tax collector said earlier this year that budget cuts had forced him to cut 33,378 full-time positions between fiscal 2010 and 2020, including a significant number of taxpayer service and law enforcement staff.

The IRS has repeatedly warned that the layoffs undermine its ability to begin and conduct audits that would help fill the tax loophole. While the number of millionaires has nearly doubled since 2012, tax audits fell 72% from 40,965 in 2012 to 11,331 in 2020.

Mazur recommended that lawmakers endorse provisions in the Biden government’s 2022 budget that would help top up the service.

The White House is currently proposing a sustained, multi-year funding stream of nearly $ 80 billion over the next decade, which the Treasury Department said would allow it to put staff on hold. President Joe Biden has also suggested means to update IRS technology and improve information reporting on third-party reports.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Analysis estimates these compliance initiatives would generate approximately $ 700 billion in additional tax revenue over the next decade.

Mazur’s remarks came a day after five former Treasury Ministers – Lawrence Summers, Robert Rubin, Henry Paulson, Jacob Lew, and Timothy Geithner – called on lawmakers in a New York Times comment to allocate much of the Biden administration’s budget to the tax collector authorize.

“We are convinced that better information reporting requirements can be designed that enable a significant increase in revenue collection without burdening taxpayers at all and not significantly increasing the regulatory burden on the entire economy,” wrote the former secretaries.

“Sensible people cannot agree on the extent of certain tax rate increases,” added the quintet. “But on this issue, everyone, including Congressmen from both parties, should agree that if the IRS is given the tools it needs to improve compliance, it will generate significant revenue and create a fairer, more efficient system of tax administration.”