Monthly Archives: June 2015



Budget cuts to the IRS are hampering the agency’s efforts to uncover tax cheats, an agency watchdog said last week and more trims are on the way under legislation approved by a GOP-controlled House panel.

IRS budget cuts are hurting tax collections because there are fewer agents chasing delinquent taxpayers, according to a report released Wednesday by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The IRS budget has been cut by $1.2 billion since 2010.

The House Appropriations Committee approved IRS cuts of $900 million more on Wednesday on a party-line vote.

Republicans controlling Congress have targeted the much-maligned agency, particularly in the wake of revelations that IRS agents inappropriately singled out tea party groups for additional scrutiny when they sought tax-exempt status.

Enforcement revenue collected by the officers dropped from a high of $3.3 billion in 2012 to $3.0 billion last year, even as the economy improved.

During that time, the number of revenue officers has been cut by nearly a third, to less than 3,000.

“This report dramatically illustrates the long-term effect of IRS budget cuts on the nation’s tax system and revenue stream,” the IRS said in a statement. “Cutting our resources in these areas means hundreds of millions of taxes go uncollected.”

The IRS’ overloaded phone system also hung up on more than 8 million taxpayers this filing season and forced millions more to wait on hold for 30 minutes or longer to get help on their returns. The staffing shortages meant that the IRS was able to answer fewer than 40 percent of taxpayer calls and led to long waits and lines out the door for taxpayers at walk-in centers.

Health Insurers propose double-digit rate hikes


Insurers propose double-digit rate hikes

Individuals who buy health insurance through could see big increases in their premiums next year.

Requests are varied — Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico is proposing hikes between 49% and 65% — but several insurers are seeking double-digit increases, according to a list of proposed rate increases of 10% or more that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services posted Monday on

“So far, hundreds of health plans have requested this double-digit increase, often citing increased costs due to (the Affordable Care Act),” according to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The posted rate increases — which reflect the cost before subsidies — are subject to a review process that “allows for officials, experts and the public to examine and question why a particular health insurance plan’s yearly increase in its premium is high (10% or greater) before it is finalized,” according to CMS.

“These specific rates will be subject to vigorous rate review and revision and the final rates consumers will see this fall will reflect the breadth of choice and competition in the marketplace,” says CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt.

In 2015, premiums rose by 5.4% on average across all reporting states, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute. Nearly one in three consumers who re-enrolled this year chose a different plan, CMS says.

The final rates for the 2016 coverage year for all states will be published by Nov. 1.

Employers’ premiums on the rise

Employers can expect rising premiums, too. Overall claims costs are expected to increase 7% to 10%, resulting in even higher premiums, according to a Wells Fargo Insurance survey of more than 65 insurance companies.

“The results of the survey indicate rising cost trends that will force companies into a delicate balancing act of providing competitive benefits while also managing costs effectively and complying with regulations,” says Dan Gowen, national practice leader with Wells Fargo Insurance’s employee benefits national practice.

That’s where advisers come in.

“Employers need to have a realistic expectation of what will happen to their health care cost if they don’t make any changes to their plan or health of their employee population,” says Gowen. “Partnering with their insurance broker and employee benefits adviser to project costs is a critical first step for a business’ strategic and financial planning for 2016.”