The GOP’s False, Fearmongering Claims About the IRS’s New Funding

The GOP’s False, Fearmongering Claims About the IRS’s New Funding

Democrats’ big climate, health care and tax plan provides $79.6 billion in additional funding over 10 years for the Internal Revenue Service. That money includes about $45.6 billion for stepped-up tax enforcement — a crackdown that is projected to raise $124 billion in net revenue.

Republicans have honed in on that funding and revenue in scaremongering messaging that warns that an army of IRS agents will be coming for middle-class taxpayers.

  • “Democrats are making the IRS bigger than the Pentagon, the Department of State, the FBI, and the Border Patrol COMBINED! Those IRS agents will come after you, not billionaires and big corporations!” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted Sunday.
  • “Value shoppers at Walmart and other retailers, already struggling with higher prices and more expensive fuel to drive to the store, will get hit with 710,000 additional audits thanks to the Manchin-Biden Democrat bill,” Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee said in a statement this weekend.
  • “Do you make $75,000 or less? Democrats' new army of 87,000 IRS agents will be coming for you—with 710,000 new audits for Americans who earn less than $75k,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tweeted Tuesday.
  • “If you think the federal government is out of control now, God help us when you get 87,000 new IRS agents who are looking under every rock and stone to get money out of your pocket,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted Wednesday.

Those warnings ignore assurances to the contrary from the IRS itself. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a letter to Congress last week that the agency did not plan to increase audit rates for middle-class and low-income households. “These resources are absolutely not about increasing audit scrutiny on small businesses or middle-income Americans,” Rettig wrote. “As we have been planning, our investment of these enforcement resources is designed around Treasury’s directive that audit rates will not rise relative to recent years for households making under $400,000.”

The facts: Josh Kelety and Ali Swenson of the Associated Press write that Republicans are distorting the effects of the Democratic bill. Yes, it would add to the number of IRS employees — currently about 80,000 — “but it would not create a mob of armed auditors looking to harass middle-class taxpayers.”

The IRS will be releasing its hiring plans in the coming months, Kelety and Swenson report, but the new employees will be brought on over time, with many replacing workers who quit or retire. The agency has lost about 50,000 employees to attrition over the last five years, and it expects those losses to continue.

“There’s a big wave of attrition that’s coming and a lot of these resources are just about filling those positions,” Natasha Sarin, an economist who now serves as a counselor for tax policy and implementation at the Treasury Department, told Time.

Enforcement staff specifically has dropped by 30% since 2010, but the new hires won’t all be auditors.

“In all, the IRS might net roughly 20,000 to 30,000 more employees from the new funding, enough to restore the tax-collecting agency’s staff to where it was roughly a decade ago, Time’s Eric Cortellessa reports.

Most voters aren’t concerned, poll finds: Despite the GOP messaging, a new Politico-Morning Consult survey finds that most voters aren’t worried about being audited. More than three-quarters of voters said they aren’t concerned about being audited, with the results consistent among Democrats, Republicans and independents. More than half of those surveyed, 56%, said that they are “not at all concerned” or “not too concerned” about an increased number of audits. A plurality of voters (48%) said that they believe higher income Americans would be subject to the greatest increase in audits, though 44% pointed to the middle class.

The survey of 2,005 registered voters was conducted August 5-7 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.