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EXACTLY WHY IS THIS BAD NEWS?

August 06, 2004

From today's TaxBase (Tax Analysts) comes a happy story wrapped in a mourning shroud:

   IRS Employees Win Second Jobs Competition -- 
         And Lose More Jobs
   For the second day in a row, the IRS 
   announced August 5 that an internal group 
   has won a public-private jobs competition, 
   which will still result in more than 200 job 
   losses at the IRS.
   The competition was held over an IRS 
   initiative to restructure its Modernization 
   and Information Technology Services 
   (MITS), which is responsible for information 
   systems products and services for tax 
   return processing. The winning plan, 
   created by an employee-management team 
   that included members of the IRS employees 
   union, calls for cutting the number of MITS 
   employees down from nearly 280 to 60 in 
   the IRS’s 10 centers across the country.
   The union decried the competition as a 
   result of the IRS trying to meet the Bush 
   administration’s “unstated quota” for federal 
   agencies regarding opening up a certain 
   percentage of their jobs to private-sector 
   competition.

OK, maybe we're a bit slow. Let's see if we have this right:

-IRS employees, including union members, have figured out ways to do the same work with 220 fewer people. This means the IRS can use these 220 salaries to fight offshore tax fraud or abusive corporate tax shelters.

And that's a bad thing?

Well, maybe replacement jobs will satisfy the National Treasury Employees Union, if they are all unionized, and if they aren't required to be too well-trained:

   IRS Officials Criticize Arbitration Ruling
   A decision handed down in a labor dispute 
   could hinder the IRS’s ability to sniff out 
   abusive tax shelters, according to IRS 
   officials, including Commissioner Mark 
   Everson.
   On July 9 an arbiter struck down a tougher 
   set of qualifications for revenue agents 
   aimed at strengthening the accounting 
   skills of the IRS’s enforcement personnel. 
   Everson told Tax Analysts he was “shocked” 
   by the “horrific” decision...
   When the new requirements were put in 
   place, already-employed revenue agents 
   were not required to meet the new 
   requirements, but other Service employees 
   wanting to apply for the positions were. 
   The union has called the rules "unnecessary 
   obstacles on internal candidates." In an 
   interview with Tax Analysts, NTEU President 
   Colleen Kelley charged the Service with 
   "unilaterally changing the requirements for 
   the job with no substantiation."

One might almost get the impression that the union wants to keep unneeded workers on the payroll while making sure they aren't required to obtain skills to do jobs that actually need doing.

UPDATE: The Washington Post has run two stories on the IRS job cuts (hat tip to the TaxProf Blog).

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