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Top Republican to IRS: You say you’re broke. How can you afford 700 new employees?

Rep. Jason Chaffetz criti-cized the IRS.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz criti-cized the IRS.

WASHINGTON — The chairman of a powerful House committee is demanding to know how IRS chief John Koskinen has found the money to hire up to 700 enforcement staff when he told Congress a short time ago his agency was more or less broke.

Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform panel, reminded the IRS commissioner in a letter that he told lawmakers in February that he ‘‘urgently needed’’ a billion-dollar budget increase next year to boost the agency’s enforcement staff.

‘‘Now, less than three months later, without that increase, you have announced plans to increase enforcement activities,’’ Chaffetz wrote. ‘‘The inescapable conclusion is that your testimony to Congress was inaccurate, reflecting either an attempt to exaggerate IRS’s budget needs or a management failure in understanding the needs of your organization.’’

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Chaffetz’s May 6 letter is the latest attack by House Republicans on Koskinen’s management of the IRS since Congress launched a lengthy probe of the agency’s treatment of conservative groups.

Chaffetz demanded that the IRS produce a full accounting of where he found the money that will pay for up to 700 new hires this year, the hiring plans themselves, and the paper trail showing how officials determined in February that they had to continue an exception-only hiring freeze that took effect in 2011.

Koskinen said in a memo that the money for enforcement hires will be freed up by retirements, attrition, and budget ‘‘efficiencies.’’

Washington Post