The IRS’ Private Debt Collection Program Once Again Looks Like A Failure

The IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

What’s the old line about “fool me once?” When it comes to privatizing debt collections for the IRS, Congress has now tried to fool American taxpayers for the third time. According to a new report by the agency’s Taxpayer Advocate Service, the outcome is roughly the same as the last two episodes—the agency is spending far more on the program than the firms are collecting and remitting to the Treasury. This time, according to the TAS, the agency spent $20 million in fiscal years 2016-2017 on a program that generated $6.7 million in payments through last October.

Just as troubling, the reports finds the debt collectors were mostly targeting lower-income taxpayers, some of whom are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)–a group that was supposed to be excluded from the program. Of the 4,100 taxpayers who made payments after their debts were assigned to private collectors, 1,100, or 28 percent, had incomes below $20,000. About 5 percent were receiving SSDI or Social Security retirement benefits. They…

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