Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) warned potential job seekers against applying for new positions at the Internal Revenue Service, vowing that Republicans will move to rescind new federal funding for the agency if they retake control of Congress next year.
Democrats are beefing up tax enforcement with a major $80 billion investment in the IRS, more than half of which will go toward enforcement to ensure the wealthy and corporations pay their taxes. The funding was included in Democrats’ climate and health bill, titled the Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law on Tuesday.
“These new positions at the IRS will not offer you the long-term job stability you may expect from a position with the federal government. Put another way: this will be a short-term gig,” Scott wrote in an “open letter” released by his office on Tuesday.
Republicans have decried stricter enforcement of the tax code as not only a tax hike, but a threat to people’s liberty and even their safety.
One GOP senator suggested IRS agents with AR-15 style guns could shoot business owners. They’ve even tried to link the new IRS funding to last week’s entirely unrelated FBI raid on Mar-A-Lago, former President Donald Trump’s ritzy estate in Florida.
“If the FBI can raid the home of a former US President, imagine what 87,000 more IRS agents will do to you,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) tweeted a few days before the DOJ revealed it was investigating Trump for potential violations of the Espionage Act.
The missing context from the Republican attacks is that Congress has clamped down on IRS funding for years and the agency has 30% less enforcement staff than it did in 2010. Partly as a result, the IRS fails to collect hundreds of billions in taxes each year, mostly from company owners or partners not reporting their business income. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that an extra $80 billion for the IRS could boost revenue by $200 billion.
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig testified this year that the IRS had less than 79,000 full-time staffers last year and that the agency would need to make 52,000 hires in the next six years just to maintain current staffing levels.
A chunk of the $80 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act would also go toward modernizing the agency’s outdated information technology.
“Enhanced IT systems and taxpayer service will actually mean that honest taxpayers will be better able to comply with the tax laws, resulting in a lower likelihood of being audited and a reduced burden on them,” Rettig said in May.
But Scott alleged that Democrats wanted to form “an IRS super-police” that could go so far as barge into your house and kill you, a reference to an IRS job ad indicating applicants had to be willing to carry a firearm and use deadly force.
“We aren’t talking about joining your local police force, or even the U.S. military – this is the federal agency charged with collecting taxes,” Scott said in the letter. “The IRS is making it very clear that you not only need to be ready to audit and investigate your fellow hardworking Americans, your neighbors and friends, you need to be ready and, to use the IRS’s words, willing, to kill them.”
The IRS does have a gun-carrying criminal division of its enforcement staff, though it’s only about 2,000 agents. An annual report from the criminal division says new hires undergo six months of training in tax law, evidence gathering and interviewing, as well as methods of proving unreported income.
“It also provides physical fitness conditioning and use of force training, which includes firearms, weaponless tactics, and building entry,” the 2021 annual report says. The report describes IRS agents going undercover to bust tax evasion by the likes of crypto scammers, drug dealers and human traffickers.
Both Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Rettig, a Trump appointee, have said people with incomes under $400,000 would not be targeted for increased enforcement. The IRS separately has said criminal division hires would amount to 1% of projected increased staffing.
Despite Scott’s claim that Republicans will retake the House and Senate this fall and then slash the IRS budget, it’s not a certainty that they’ll win, and any legislation they pass would still need to be signed by a Democratic president.
Still, the threat to defund the IRS is a preview of coming legislative battles if the GOP wins back one or both chambers in November. A Republican-controlled House would almost certainly seek to cut spending next year, putting them on a collision course with Democrats and increasing the odds of a government shutdown.