More than a year ago, the Internal Revenue Service planned widespread job cuts. Tuesday, the IRS said there will be no layoffs.
The agency has been confronted with congressional criticism and calls for reform in light of highly publicized reports of abusive actions toward taxpayers, as well as staunch union opposition to the cuts. On Tuesday, the IRS said employees at risk of losing jobs would be reassigned to improve “customer service,” help taxpayers resolve problems and increase compliance with tax laws.
The layoffs would have been the first in IRS’s long history. The decision to cancel the “reduction in force” reflects the difficulties federal agencies face when they attempt to reorganize operations, modernize computer systems, absorb budget cuts and cope with changing congressional priorities.
The agency’s original plan called for eliminating up to 5,000 jobs in field offices and at the Washington headquarters. But the timetable for the job cuts and a field reorganization fell apart after months of litigation and lobbying by the National Treasury Employees Union.
As time passed, the number of employees scheduled to lose jobs dropped to 4,000, then 1,400 and settled at about 500. IRS officials said normal turnover, early retirement and cash “buyouts” reduced the number of layoffs needed to complete the reorganization. Now, even those 500 workers will not be cut, the IRS said. “The way this has turned out, it works to the agency’s advantage, the employees’ advantage and the union’s advantage. I think this is sort of a win-win for all of us,” said David A. Mader, IRS chief management officer.
The job reassignments, to positions with comparable pay and within the worker’s commuting area, will be made on the basis of seniority. After two years, employees still in interim jobs could face transfers to offices outside their commuting area.
The IRS reassignments essentially bring an end to a three-year field reorganization that has reduced the district offices from 63 to 33 and regional offices from seven to four.