by Laurent GUERBY
Sun Aug 20th, 2006 at 05:46:49 PM EST
A nice story on the NYT, found via Angry Bear and Dean Baker:
If you owe back taxes to the federal government, the next call asking you to pay may come not from an Internal Revenue Service officer, but from a private debt collector.
Within two weeks, the I.R.S. will turn over data on 12,500 taxpayers -- each of whom owes $25,000 or less in back taxes -- to three collection agencies. Larger debtors will continue to be pursued by I.R.S. officers.
The move, an initiative of the Bush administration, represents the first step in a broader plan to outsource the collection of smaller tax debts to private companies over time. Although I.R.S. officials acknowledge that this will be much more expensive than doing it internally, they say that Congress has forced their hand by refusing to let them hire more revenue officers, who could pull in a lot of easy-to-collect money.
The private debt collection program is expected to bring in $1.4 billion over 10 years, with the collection agencies keeping about $330 million of that, or 22 to 24 cents on the dollar.
By hiring more revenue officers, the I.R.S. could collect more than $9 billion each year and spend only $296 million -- or about three cents on the dollar -- to do so, Charles O. Rossotti, the computer systems entrepreneur who was commissioner from 1997 to 2002, told Congress four years ago.
I.R.S. officials on Friday characterized those figures as correct, but said that the plan Mr. Rossotti had proposed had been forestalled by Congress, which declined to authorize it to hire more revenue officers. [...]
Nothing short of incredible?
Icing on the cake:
One of the three companies selected by the I.R.S. is a law firm in Austin, Tex., where a former partner, Juan Peña, admitted in 2002 that he paid bribes to win a collection contract from the city of San Antonio. He went to jail for the crime.
Old fashioned corruption.
Under federal budget rules, money spent to hire tax collectors is treated as a discretionary expense, and Congress is cutting discretionary spending. In business terms, the rules treat the I.R.S. as a cost center, not as the government's profit center.
The private debt-collection program, however, is outside the budget rules because, except for the start-up costs, the collectors are to be paid from the proceeds.
PS: feel free to post a story about that at Daily Kos.