The IRS needs help, and there is no solution

April is perhaps America’s most maligned month for one reason: tax day. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)makes filing taxes as muddling as possible. Numbers and acronyms litter the website: 1040, 1048, W-2 and W-2C. For the average American, these terms invoke an eye twitch – and for good reason.

TurboTax, FreeTaxUSA, Jackson Hewitt, IRS Free File, Tax Slayer, H&R Block and Liberty Tax–– among others–– are all different sides of the same cumbersome coin. I’ve been filing my own taxes since I was 16 and the process has yet to become easier. Just this week, I spent three hours attempting to verify my identity to the IRS. Despite providing the IRS with my Social Security Number, passport, driver’s license, academic transcript, student ID, W2 form, two old 1098s and a face scan, the agency still did not consider me a real person.

I’m fortunate that I had the time to sit and struggle with a government website. For those that don’t, these time-consuming steps can cause inordinate stress. The IRS even has its own webpage called “Tips to take the stress out of tax season.”

Every year when I use TurboTax’s free file, I can’t help but wonder if there is a better way to do this. While the IRS deserves much of the flack it catches – its audits target the poorest wage earners at five times higher than other Americans – abolishing it or cutting its budget only exacerbates issues.

For instance, in January the House Republican majority voted to cut funding for the IRS. The vote was an effort to repeal the $80 billion increase in funding the revenue agency received last year as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. These funds, which would be received by the IRS over the next decade, were going to be allocated toward going after wealthy tax-evaders and improving their customer service.

The Republican-proposed bill was formally called the “Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act” and was scarcely longer than a page. While restricting the government’s reach is a seemingly noble pursuit, cutting the IRS’s budget would only benefit millionaires. Interestingly, of the bill’s 54 cosponsors, five are among the wealthiest in Congress with their respective net worths ranging from $12.4 million to $157.2 million.

Because of these budget cuts, the amount of IRS enforcement funding has been cut by 24% since 2010, while the number of tax returns has increased by 9%. Furthermore, a 35% decrease in audit operations staff has caused the overall audit rate to fall by 45%. Most alarmingly, corporations with more than $1 billion in assets are being audited 51% less than they were ten years ago, and the audit rate for individual filers with more than $1 million in annual income is down by 61%.

The idea of giving government agencies even more of my hard-earned money is a slippery slope, but allowing wealthy earners to cheat their taxes and place burdens on lower-income Americans is worse. As of right now, there is no clear-cut solution to the IRS’s inefficiency other than throw more cash at them and hope they keep their promises.