Wouldn’t it be great to have less IRS audits because the tax code is simple enough for people to understand? Well, that hasn’t happened yet but pressure from Congress and budget cuts have caused a reduction in audits by the IRS.

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The IRS is auditing fewer tax returns than at any other time in the past 15 years as the agency struggles with what it says is a shrinking budget and pressure from Congress to be less zealous in enforcement.

Just six out of every 1,000 individual taxpayers faced an audit last year, the government said in the latest IRS Data Book released last week, marking the lowest rate since 2002.

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Analysts said that is unlikely to change this year, as the April 17 deadline for this year’s filing season nears and as the IRS grapples with endemic budget cuts and the strain of having to administer the new tax law.

Some taxpayer advocates cheered the news, saying it’s time the IRS was brought to heel after years of excesses, including targeting tea party groups for illegal scrutiny and making tax-filing season tougher than it had to be as a protest against budget cuts.

“It should be a healthy sign if they’re auditing less,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “I would very much like to live in a world where the IRS doesn’t have to do too much auditing because the tax code is simple enough for people to understand.”

But the agency’s defenders said having a working IRS is critical to collecting money owed to the government — particularly after Congress made the job even more complicated with the passage in December of the $1.5 trillion tax cut legislation.

 The IRS has been begging for more resources to conduct enforcement, but the Republican-led Congress has been reluctant to allocate the money.




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