In the best of times, the Internal Revenue Service is the agency Americans love to hate. Thanks to self-inflicted wounds, these are the worst of times for the IRS. Still, that doesn’t mean that the agency should get less money than it needs to do its job.
Starting next year, the job of the IRS is going to get harder. By 2014, under the Affordable Care Act, state health insurance exchanges are scheduled to be in place, and most Americans will have to be insured or pay fines. Those who can’t afford to pay will be helped by subsidies.
The IRS, which will help carry out the law, is hiring thousands of employees for that purpose. The Obama Administration seeks $12.9 billion for the IRS next year — a 14 percent increase — including $440 million for work on the health-care law.
All this is happening when the IRS is even more unpopular than usual. The scandals that are besetting the agency jeopardize the funding it needs to enforce the health-care law. The IRS’ troubles are not minor, but neither are they a reason to sabotage it.
It was folly for the IRS to target Tea Party groups in reviewing eligibility for tax-exempt status, but there’s no evidence that the administration was on a political witch hunt. Instead, it seems this misbegotten idea was the work of overzealous staffers in the Cincinnati office. Then it was reported that the IRS spent $50 million on conferences for its personnel.
The threat to its funding does not mean the IRS can’t be trusted. It means many Republican lawmakers hate the Affordable Care Act so much that they will seize on anything to doom it. The GOP-controlled House has voted 37 times to repeal the law, most recently last month.
The IRS scandals offer another chance for Republicans to do what they couldn’t do in the presidential election, in Congress, or at the Supreme Court. If the IRS can be trusted to oversee Americans’ tax returns, it can be trusted to administer a law that deserves a fair chance to work to the benefit of millions of Americans.