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Weeks Before Midterm Elections, Republicans Warn Of An Army Of 87,000 IRS Agents Who Will Harass Americans

For weeks, Republicans have been telling voters across the country that President Joe Biden and the Democrats will send an army of 87,000 IRS agents to audit ordinary Americans, to further dig into their pockets and pay for liberal programs not financed, such as student loan forgiveness. Before the midterm elections, Republican candidates run campaign ads laying out the claim and promising to stop the IRS, once Republicans control Congress again. Where did this idea originate and is there any truth to it? Here’s what you need to know about if the tax collectors are coming.

Where did the Republicans get this number?

The 87,000 figure comes from a Treasury report released in May 2021, which evaluated a proposal to provide the IRS with an additional $80 billion in funding. That amount of money has since been passed, courtesy of the climate, health and tax law passed earlier this year.

The analysis showed that over 10 years, the The IRS could add nearly 87,000 full-time employees. But nowhere does it say how many employees would be auditors compared to other types of IRS employees, such as customer service personnel who can help taxpayers process their payments and receive refunds. The figure also represents the gross number of employees that could potentially be hired, not the net total, as the agency faces attrition over the next decade.

What do Republicans say about these IRS agents?

It varies. On social media, some say IRS agents will be armed. Others, like Washington GOP Senate candidate Tiffany Smiley, are taking advantage of the size of the number. It’s “insane for Joe Biden and Patty Murray to send a full stadium or IRS agents to force families making less than $75,000 to pay for someone else’s law degree,” she says in an ad.

North Carolina Senate candidate Ted Budd complains in another ad that Biden has “spent recklessly” and “now wants 87,000 more IRS agents to cover his tab.” Meanwhile, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has vowed to repeal the 87,000 officers in the Republicans’ first bill if they win a majority.

Are the claims true?

No, the claims are outdated and misleading. While the IRS will get $80 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act passed in August, the IRS has yet to release a plan for the money. In August, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a memo to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig directing the agency to deliver a plan within six months for how the funds will be used over the next decade. Yellen also had another directive to the agency regarding new staff and that Americans should not see any more audits.

“Any additional resources, including any new staff or auditors that are hired, will not be used to increase the proportion of small businesses or households below the $400,000 threshold that are audited relative to historical levels,” he wrote in a letter. In a separate letter to the Senate, Rettig, a Trump appointee, also stated that the resources are “not at all about increasing audit scrutiny on small businesses or middle-income Americans.”

The IRS proposal for the money is due in February.

So what is the IRS spending on, if not 87,000 agents?

Of the $80 billion in funding, nearly $46 billion was allocated to improve enforcement as the IRS seeks to close the so-called “tax gap,” currently estimated at $600 billion annually and $7.5 trillion in taxes. next ten years. In addition to law enforcement, the money is also being used to improve taxpayer services and technology.

“Resources to modernize the IRS will be used to improve taxpayer services, from answering phones to improving IT systems, and cracking down on high-income and corporate tax dodgers costing the American people hundreds of dollars.” billions of dollars each year. a Treasury official said.

The IRS has faced mounting challenges for decades that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the technology used by the agency dates back to the 1960s. In both reports and congressional testimony, Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins has described IRS employees having to manually enter information line by line. of paper declarations. She has called the paper returns “kryptonite” in numerous warnings to Congress. Her mid-year report in June indicated that the agency had a backlog of 21.3 million unprocessed paper tax returns at the end of May. However, that number has dropped. The IRS recently said it had 6.2 million unprocessed individual returns as of September 23, including 4.6 million paper returns to review and process.

The IRS has also had problems with its customer service charge. Its workforce remains at levels similar to those of the 1970s despite a growing population and added responsibilities. Last tax filing season, the agency was only able to handle about 10% of calls, a problem that frustrated both Republican and Democrat lawmakers.

What will those hired by the IRS do?

Fill vacant positions, mostly. The IRS is about to lose more than 50,000 employees who will retire in the next five years.

“Most of the new hires will replace the standard level of staff departures in the coming years,” a Treasury official said, adding that new staff will be hired to “improve taxpayer services and experienced auditors who can take on corporate responsibilities and high level”. put an end to tax dodgers, without raising audit rates relative to historical norms for people making less than $400,000 each year.”

On the enforcement side, the IRS has lost 40% of the complex revenue agents needed to go after high-level tax evaders over the past decade. The agency is working with the same number of auditors dealing with complex jobs as it did in World War II.

Will IRS agents be armed?

Only a fraction of employees in the entire IRS are armed. The criminal investigation unit is a small division within the agency with fewer than 2,000 employees, less than 3% of the total workforce. And within that unit, only special agents are armed, even fewer than the 2,000 employees who work there. The unit deals with issues such as narcotics and money laundering. Recently, he has been part of the workgroup tracking the assets of Russian oligarchs.

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