There may not be a lot of sympathy in some quarters, but employees of the Internal Revenue Service may be facing forced furloughs due to the automatic spending cuts brought on the by the sequestration. This could force thousands of middle class workers to take mandatory unpaid days off of work. The wording of the sequestration doesn’t mandate that the money cut from the IRS budget come in the form of salaries, however, as with most businesses, the largest expense that the IRS has is personnel.
The Acting Commissioner of the IRS, Steven T. Miller, said that beginning in the summer of 2013, employees may be forced to miss between five and seven days due to the furlough. These furloughs would, in all likelihood, not begin until after the third quarter filing deadline has passed. Miller also states that employees will be given 30 day notices prior to the forced days off.
By using the furlough days beginning the summer, Miller hoped that there would be minimal disruption to the work that the IRS is responsible for. He also felt that starting the furloughs in the summer would cause less disruption to taxpayers regarding their level of confidence with the accuracy of IRS work.
In an effort to save money and require less furlough time, the IRS is currently in a hiring freeze, not replacing those who retire or resign. The agency will also save money by reducing grants it offers, and it will cut costs in travel of employees, training for new and existing employees, and reduce the use of supplies in an attempt to focus all spending on the most vital aspects of it mission.
In an effort to ensure that the furloughs are applied to employees in an equitable and a fair way, the IRS employees’ union, the National Employees Treasury Union has met with Miller and others in IRS leadership positions. All government agencies are required to meet with unions before utilizing furloughs. The unions complained that the furloughs come on the heels of a two year salary freeze.
It is possible that furloughs can be avoided if Washington decides to make ending the sequester a priority. However, at this time, there seems to be little political will to work on the sequester as immigration and gun control seem to be more immediate issues for them to tackle.