How Many IRS Employees Does it Take to Replace an Ink Cartridge? 

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Posted by Isabelle Morales on Friday, May 7th, 2021, 4:00 PM PERMALINK

Dozens of printers used at IRS tax processing centers are unusable because they are out of ink or because the waste cartridge container is full and employees haven't bothered to empty the containers, according to an Inspector General report. 

As part of TIGTA’s 2020 IRS audit, released today, audit teams have been performing on-site walkthroughs at the Ogden, Utah, and Kansas City, Missouri, Tax Processing Centers “to meet with staff to discuss challenges they are facing as it relates to addressing the ongoing backlogs of inventory.” 

Audit teams identified a lack of working printers as “a major concern” and estimated that 42 percent of printers were unusable as of March 30, 2021.

In many cases the only thing wrong with the printers is that no employee had replaced the ink or emptied the waste cartridge container: 

“IRS employees stated that the only reason they could not use many of these devices is because they are out of ink or because the waste cartridge container is full.” 

As TIGTA notes, the printing issue had been ongoing since March 2020. The IRS changed contractors in October 2020, nearly six months after the problem was identified. However, in many cases, the new contractor still has not come into IRS sites to replace old printers:

“The contract for supplies and service of the printers ended in September 2020. However, due to COVID-19, these printers remain in the Tax Processing Centers, and the IRS is continuing to use them. The employees we spoke with stated that the IRS entered into a new contract in October 2020 to obtain new printers from a different provider. However, they indicated that the new contractor may not have been coming into the sites to replace the old printers due to COVID-19 concerns.” 

This report again demonstrates the ineptitude of the IRS. The agency’s inability to do its job is due to incompetence, not lack of funding.

Previous reports have demonstrated this incompetence: 

  • In 2016, the IRS has lost track of laptops containing sensitive taxpayer data. TIGTA estimates that the IRS had failed to properly document the return of 84.2 percent, or more than 1,000 computers due to be returned by contract employees. 
  • A Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report in 2017 showed that the IRS rehired more than 200 employees who were previously employed by the agency, but fired for previous conduct or performance issues.
  • Each year the IRS hangs up on millions of callers -- a practice they refer to as “Courtesy Disconnects.” Currently, if you call the IRS, you have a 1-in-50 chance of reaching a human being. 
  • According to the National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2014 Annual Report to Congress the IRS was unable to justify spending decisions. As the report stated: "The IRS lacks a principled basis for making the difficult resource allocation decisions necessitated by today’s tight budget environment.” 
  • The agency has also repeatedly failed to compile legally required tax complexity reports. These reports are supposed to contain the IRS's specific recommendations on how to make the tax code easier to comply with. Since 1998, the IRS has done so just twice – in 2000 and 2002. 
  • Other reports have detailed the countless wasteful spending habits of the agency. A 2015 report found the IRS spends over 500,000 hours per year on “union activities” which could instead be used to answer 2.3 million additional phone calls.  
  • It was revealed that the IRS was spending $1,000 an hour hiring a litigation-only white shoe law firm for an investigation in 2015, despite having over 40,000 employees dedicated to enforcement efforts.  
  • In 2015, the agency has been caught red-handed wasting taxpayer dollars on Nerf footballs, the world’s largest crossword puzzle, extravagant $100 dollar lunches, and more.  

 

While the IRS continues to blame poor service on budget constraints, countless reports point to the real problem – the inability of the agency to competently complete basic tasks and spend taxpayer dollars in a responsible way. 

Photo Credit: Bonnie Natko

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