IRS Spending As Much on Publicizing and Processing Stimulus Rebate Checks as Was Spent on Super Bowl Ads: $200 Million

March 28, 2008

“Dear Taxpayer,” it starts off. “We are pleased to inform you that the United States Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, which provides for economic stimulus payments to be made to over 130 million American households. Under this new law, you may be entitled to a payment of up to $600 ($1,200 if filing a joint return), plus additional amounts for each qualifying child.”

You might have received this junk-mail-esque notice in the mail the other day. You probably did, in fact, because the IRS spent $42 million mailing them: essentially taxpayer-funded campaign ads for incumbent politicians. And that $42 million is just to mail notices that the checks will be mailed in a few months, not the rebate checks themselves. The notice doesn’t even tell you how much you’ll be getting or when it will be mailed, making it less informative than these Tax Foundation blog posts.

It turns out the IRS was just getting warmed up, according to Diane Freda at Daily Tax Report (emphasis added):

The total cost of publicizing taxpayer eligibility for economic stimulus rebates and processing the checks themselves will be around $200 million, Internal Revenue Service officials said March 27, but they continued to defend their outreach efforts, saying they want to do the right thing by taxpayers and they see it as an opportunity to promote a better image for the IRS.

In kicking off “Super Saturday” at a news conference, Richard Byrd, Internal Revenue Service commissioner for the Wage & Investment Division, said IRS sees the situation as an opportunity to work with the public in a positive way.

Postal Service and IRS employment is certainly being stimulated. $200 million would have bought 74 Super Bowl commercials, which is more than the 63 that were shown at the last Super Bowl. In fact, Fox’s total ad earnings on the Super Bowl, the four-hour pregame, and the special episode of House after the game, was only $225 million. The IRS could have bought the whole bloc of programming for what it’s spending.

More Tax Foundation commentary on the stimulus here.

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