The IRS is leaner, but not meaner.
Several years of budget cuts have limited the reach of the tax man. The result is a smaller IRS, and one that is diminished in many ways. The agency audits less — large corporations have been especially spared — and its appetite for imposing fines or seizing assets has also declined, according to a CNBC analysis of IRS data.
Less enforcement means the agency has missed out on potential tax revenues.
"There's a direct dollar impact," said Mark Mazur, vice president of tax policy at the Tax Policy Center. He said the IRS collects an estimated $4 for each dollar spent on enforcement.
Defenders of the budget cuts implemented by congressional Republicans argue that the agency's shortfalls are primarily due to mismanagement.
"There's a need for more accountable and responsible leadership," said David Burton, a senior fellow of economic policy at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Burton argues that the agency has too few political appointees for administrations to effect change and that Congress should have more discretion to provide oversight.
By at least one measure, the IRS is more efficient in its use of resources. Over the past several years, the cost of collecting tax revenues has fallen significantly.
Here are five charts that show how spending cuts have changed the IRS.