|And: “As we reported in December 2022, IRS customer service representatives answered less than one out of five taxpayer calls seeking live assistance during the 2022 filing season.” Last year, the Treasury Secretary “announced that Treasury was committing IRS to an 85 percent level of service [percentage of calls answered] for the 2023 filing season, the highest in the last decade.” (Going from roughly 20 percent to 85 percent will be a mighty big jump for these beleaguered employees.)
Also: “Between the start of fiscal year 2010 and March 2023, we issued 451 recommendations to IRS related to protecting taxpayer information. As of October 2023, IRS had taken steps to address the gaps in safeguards we identified and implemented 85 percent of our recommendations.” Phrased differently, over the course of 13 years, the IRS still didn’t implement 15 percent of recommendations.
This is all unsettlingly par for the course. After all, it was only in July 2022 that the IRS finally worked “to prevent employees from saving data to external devices, making it harder for taxpayer information to be removed from IRS’s network.” Given that an IRS contractor leaked confidential taxpayer information about some of the wealthiest Americans to major news organizations in 2021, it’s fairly shocking that the agency seems to want plaudits for having taken 11 months to secure a major vulnerability.
As you might expect, retention is in trouble—”the agency loses about 23 percent of new recruits within 2 or 3 years”—and the IRS has mostly failed to work on improving its security systems. This is all after the agency blew past the initial deadline for releasing its report on how to use the Inflation Reduction Act funds. Deadlines for thee, but not for me.
One might be left wondering what the $3.2 billion in taxpayer services was for, if reps still can’t pick up the phone, or the $25.3 billion in improving IT systems, if taxpayer data still isn’t secured.
Middle East update: Today, the United Nations General Assembly will vote on whether to call for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. It’s unclear what exactly this nonbinding resolution will do. Overnight, the United States fired on eastern Syria, targeting facilities allegedly used by Iranian forces. Strikes on U.S. targets have been frequent in that area over the course of the last few days.
In Gaza, “the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said that basic services were crumbling, medicine was running out, food and water were scarce, and sewage had begun overflowing on the streets of Gaza,” reports The Wall Street Journal.
Israeli tanks went into the Strip again last night, though few details were released as to why. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported Friday “that it had conducted airstrikes against 250 Hamas targets in Gaza over the past day” purportedly hitting “tunnels, launch sites and command centers.”
A Shabbat table was set up in Times Square with empty place settings for each hostage. The IDF now reports that the hostage count is 229, higher than previously reported. Two more were released this week, including 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz, whose husband remains a hostage in Gaza. That brings the total released to four.