Koskinen's YouTube Debut as Commissioner

New Internal Revenue Service Commissioner, John Koskinen, delivered a special message to the nation via the IRS YouTube channel.  For many this is a video of first impressions.

On a side note, I’m not sure what the point of these videos is because regular taxpayers don’t watch them and those people that do watch (tax attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents, and general tax professionals) don’t really benefit, as these videos normally consist of a series of ambiguous soundbites.

Koskinen’s message falls in line with other IRS videos: positive and hopeful, but lacking any kind of substance.  Here are the main points:

  • He got right to work after being appointed to his new position
  • He has been traveling around the nation taking the pulse of the IRS
  • The IRS is here to help taxpayers during 2014 tax season
  • Refunds will be issued quickly
  • The IRS will work to reduce tax fraud and ID theft
  • Over 120 million people filed their tax return electronically last year
  • Resources are limited & there will be long wait times if you try to call
  • Quicker way to get help: irs.gov, tax software, tax professionals, IRS YouTube channel, IRS2Go smartphone app

As the new Commissioner of the IRS, I want to be up front with you and call it like it is, just as I have been doing my entire career.

~ John Koskinen, IRS Commissioner

My mom always told me to be skeptical of phrases that are prefaced with “I’m gonna be honest with you,” but whatever.  On the other hand, Koskinen was sufficiently stiff, boring, and unhappy in this video to convince me that he’s the right guy for the job.  He’s going to fit in just fine at the IRS.

Controversial IRS Parody Videos

There is plenty of controversy surrounding the IRS’ $4 million per year professional video production studio in New Carrollton, MD.  Most of the controversy has been stirred by a man named Charles Boustany, Jr., chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee who sees the studio as the ultimate in government waste.

In an attempt to gather details to strengthen his case against the IRS and its television studio, Boustany became aware of a couple parody videos produced by the IRS at a combined cost of $6o,000, and he wrote a letter to the IRS demanding that the videos be made public.  The IRS has admitted the existence of the videos and confirmed that they are indeed parodies of the old TV shows Gilligan’s Island and Star Trek, but the IRS has so far refused to release them to Boustany.

I’d be interested in seeing the videos too, although I admit it would be more out of morbid curiosity than anything else.  I feel like I’ve been shown a teaser for a movie that I’ll never get to see.  It’s easy to see both sides of the issue:

PROS: The production studio is necessary because the IRS has been able to create a popular collection of YouTube videos that are valuable for educating the taxpaying public.  The studio also provides a means for training and educating IRS employees through visual media, which is often less expensive than flying employees here and there for meetings in different cities.  Humor is an effective tool in training meetings.

CONS: Besides a few key videos (for example, one showing how to check the status of a refund, and one showing how to get your tax return prepared for free) the IRS YouTube videos are really not all that popular, so how much they actually help educate the general public is highly questionable.  High quality videos are fine in the right economic climate, but we just don’t have the money for this kind of thing right now.  Training videos don’t have to be entertaining.

You know, if an IRS employee can’t stay tuned into a regular boring video, then maybe they’re not the right person for the job because bean counting can be pretty boring too.