Yesterday the IRS announced that it would be initiating a massive “office space and rent reduction initiative” that will save taxpayers $17.2 million in rental costs during 2012 and even more the following year. Employees aren’t being laid off — this isn’t a reduction in staff — it’s all about packing them in tighter by eliminating some offices and consolidating others.
The IRS is quick to point out that this initiative will not result in a decrease in customer service because none of the actual walk-in taxpayer assistance centers are going to be closed. The IRS anticipates “minimal taxpayer impact.” Ok, everyone recognizes that “minimal” does not mean “none.” These press releases are carefully worded, and I think The Commish chose to hedge a little here because of course there is going to be at least some impact on taxpayers and their access to tax relief.
The truth is a vast majority of taxpayers contact the IRS by phone, not via the walk-in offices. And what happens when you pack employees in like sardines? Best case scenario is they get a little grumpy. Interestingly, this office space reduction announcement came just one day after the IRS publicized a slackening of the rules related to the Offer in Compromise program (which will likely result in a moderate to severe increase in OIC filings). I can’t imagine either of these changes were too popular among IRS personnel (“What! More work AND less space?!”). I support the office space consolidation initiative 100%, I’m just skeptical about The Commish and his “minimal taxpayer impact” line.