Federal Hiring Freeze Leaves Agencies ‘Scrambling': Union

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By Colleen Murphy

A freeze on hiring federal employees will create backlogs and create frustration, the union representing IRS employees said in a statement.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Jan. 23 placing a moratorium on federal hiring, barring the creation of new positions or filling of existing vacancies. The hiring freeze is one of his main campaign pledges, though it has been criticized by practitioners and Internal Revenue Service officials who say the agency can’t handle more cuts.

The military is excepted, although the freeze applies to all other executive departments and agencies. The director of the Office of Management and Budget will recommend a long-term plan to reduce the size of the federal workforce through attrition within 90 days of the notice, the memo said. “Reallocations to meet the highest priority needs” are acceptable, it said.

“Arbitrary cuts will leave agencies scrambling to serve the public. A hiring freeze takes away the agencies’ ability to make strategic decisions about their workforce,” National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon said in a statement. The NTEU represents 50,000 employees at the IRS, as well as many at other departments and federal agencies.

The IRS has suffered from budget cuts and attrition over the last several years, and the commissioner has previously warned that a freeze could hurt its ability to help taxpayers during filing season. The agency didn’t return a request for comment.

Broader Impact

The moratorium seems to conflict with a priority that Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin highlighted during his Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing Jan. 19. During the hearing, Mnuchin said he supports more staff and updated technology at the agency.

Such an expansion is unlikely to be popular among Republican lawmakers, some of whom say the IRS has previously abused its power. A GOP tax overhaul blueprint released in June calls for a simpler tax code and a more streamlined agency.

While the executive order “started with a very broad stroke,” it is possible that the Trump administration could create some sort of exception for the IRS, such as allowing it to make seasonal hires to help during filing season, James R. Gadwood, counsel in the tax department at Miller & Chevalier Chartered in Washington, told Bloomberg BNA. Gadwood is a member of the American Bar Association Section of Taxation’s Administrative Practice Committee.

To contact the reporter on this story: Colleen Murphy in Washington at cmurphy@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Meg Shreve at mshreve@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the executive order is at http://src.bna.com/lB2.

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