John Kerry Urges Bush Administration to Keep Massachusetts IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers Open that Help Elderly and Low-Income Citizens
John Kerry is working with the National Treasury Employees Union to fight to save four Massachusetts IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers slated for closing by the Bush Administration. The closures would negatively impact low-income and elderly citizens.
Today, Senator Kerry wrote a letter to the President of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), Colleen M. Kelley, in support of the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers. The letter addresses President Bush's decision to cut $134 million from Taxpayer Services and to close 68 of the IRS Centers across the United States, four in Massachusetts and one Boston call site. In 2004, the four Taxpayer Assistance Centers and Boston call site directly affected by the cut helped over 9,000 taxpayers file their returns. "Big corporations can afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers and accountants at tax time, but working people are left on their own to navigate a tax code that's thousands of pages long. It's wrong to punish hardworking families and the elderly who will lose the opportunity to get tax law assistance if George Bush succeeds in closing IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers. It is essential that these centers remain open to maintain direct, personal connection between the government and people of Massachusetts," said Senator Kerry on the issue. The Boston call site and the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers located in Fitchburg, Hyannis, Pittsfield, and Quincy are proposed to be cut. These centers offer walk-in service to relieve tax inquiries, explain IRS notices, and organize reasonable payment plans. They also provide multilingual assistance. Below is a copy of the letter sent from Senator Kerry to the National President of the NTEU, Colleen M. Kelley. Colleen M. Kelley National President NTEU 1750 H St., NW Washington, DC
Dear Ms. Kelley:
I have been told that the National Treasury Employees Union is holding a rally in Boston this week to protest the closing of the Boston call site and related Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) in Fitchburg, Hyannis, Pittsfield, and Quincy. I share your concerns about closing these centers and the resulting loss of a valuable service to the taxpayer. The President's decision to cut $134 million from Taxpayer Service and close 68 assistance centers runs directly counter to the 1998 IRS Restructuring and Reform Act's mandate that the IRS "place a greater emphasis on serving the public and meeting taxpayers' needs." It is yet another example of how this Administration's priorities are not the priorities of the American people.
The Boston Call Site provides necessary and effective service to taxpayers throughout the United States. It operates with 98 percent accuracy, an accuracy rate much higher than sites in other locations. It was the first to begin answering taxpayers' questions via e-mail. The eighty two employees are experienced and well-supported. They have an impressive record of answering tax questions from all parts of the country on even the most complex provisions of the tax code.
The assistance centers in Massachusetts have an equally impressive record, and closing four of the nine located in Massachusetts will hurt our taxpayers. These facilities are the IRS's frontlines in the battle to prevent costly retroactive tax collection by helping citizens file their tax forms correctly the first time. They help the elderly, low-income, and non-native English speaking customers who do not have access to high-tech alternatives like the Internet. The four TACs which are scheduled to be closed in Massachusetts helped over 9,000 taxpayers file their 2004 tax returns.
By closing these facilities, the Bush Administration sends a clear message that accessible taxpayer service is no longer a priority. Although the IRS claims that these actions will have little impact because taxpayers prefer to use the Internet or telephone, according to Ms. Nina Olson of the National Taxpayer Advocate, a recent Pew study found that a significant percentage of individuals prefer face-to-face service when seeking assistance from the government. Further, Mr. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, has testified before the Finance Committee that he is "skeptical that the IRS has adequate data to assess the impact that closing these centers will have on customer service." Nor does he believe that taxpayers who currently use the centers will be able to contact the IRS through other methods. There is simply no substitute for the personal service afforded to them by center personnel.
I have expressed my concerns about the closing of the Boston Call Site and four TACs to IRS Commissioner Everson. I have also written the Senate Appropriations Committee to express my opposition to the closing of theses centers and to request that these programs be adequately funded. I will continue to do whatever it takes to keep these valuable resources open and available to the people of Massachusetts.
Sincerely, John F. Kerry