As a result of the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed through Congress this summer with no Republican support, the IRS is on track to receive an additional $80 billion in funding over the next decade – and lots of GOP candidates are hoping that reminding voters of that fact this fall will help propel them to victory in the upcoming midterm elections.
“Voters in the country’s most competitive House and Senate races face a deluge of Republican ads focusing on the dubious claim that Democrats have empowered the IRS to hire an army of 87,000 new agents to target the middle class,” Punchbowl News’s Max Cohen wrote Wednesday.
The claims are “dubious,” Cohen says, because experts agree that the money will be spent on bringing the tax agency back up to strength following years of budget cuts. According to the IRS, which has not yet developed a detailed plan for how it will spend the funding, much of the money will be spent on improving customer service and acquiring new information technology for the hopelessly outdated agency, which still relies on computer programs written more than 50 years ago.
On top of that, the IRS and the Treasury Department have pledged to focus their efforts on high-income households and corporations, whose audit rates have tumbled in recent years as the tax agency’s recourses have been slashed. “I direct that any additional resources—including any new personnel or auditors that are hired—shall not be used to increase the share of small business or households below the $400,000 threshold that are audited relative to historical levels,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in August.
Some recent GOP ad campaigns, however, are putting a decidedly more pessimistic if not wholly fantastic spin on the issue. All official statements to the contrary, Republicans insist that the IRS plans to hire an army of aggressive news agents – the 87,000 figure comes from an estimate made by the Treasury Department last year of how many employees in all areas the agency would need to hire in the coming years, in large part to make up for an expected wave of retirements – who will target middle-class taxpayers.
The Senate Leadership Fund, for example, has been running ads in Georgia targeting Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock for his vote in support of the Inflation Reduction Act, which the ad claims will enable the federal government “to hire 87,000 new IRS employees to dig even deeper in middle-class pockets.”
Another GOP ad targeting Democrat Cheri Beasley in the North Carolina senate race warns voters that the “liberal politician … is gonna knock on your door with an army of new IRS agents” as she sends “the IRS beast to collect her taxes on working families.” On the screen, viewers see images of empty wallets, harried families, nighttime police raids and IRS agents taking target practice at a shooting range.
Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is targeting Sen. Mark Kelly, saying the Arizona Democrat voted to hire “87,000 IRS workers,” helpfully adding that that’s “enough to fill Sun Devil Stadium.”