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Monday, August 8, 2022

OPINION:

The reconciliation bill Democrats rushed through congress calls for $80 billion in new IRS funding so the agency can hire as many as 87,000 new agents and auditors. That quantity is enough to fill every seat in Washington’s Nationals Park twice.

Democrats are doubling the size of the IRS, with most of the new money going into its enforcement arm. The bill provides 14 times as much funding for “enforcement” — as in fishing expedition audits — than it does for “taxpayer services” such as answering the phone.


It is dangerous to give an unaccountable and incompetent agency this much power over families and small businesses. 

Audits of the agency by the official IRS watchdog — the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration — have shown a consistent lack of regard for due process and taxpayer rights. All too often, the average household or small business owner pays the price for the IRS’ culture of incompetence or outright neglect.

The IRS Criminal Investigation division is armed to the teeth with over 4,600 guns and 5 million rounds of ammunition, a number that will only balloon with the proposed hiring of over 87,000 new employees. TIGTA reports show the IRS does not manage its firearms program particularly well.

Of the 19 times a weapon was discharged by an IRS agent between 2009 and 2011, the most recent data available, 11 of those instances were classified as accidental. IRS agents fired their guns improperly in more than half of gunfire incidents. 

There were also unreported incidents. The inspector general wrote: “In three of the four accidental discharges that were not reported, the accidental discharges may have resulted in property damage or personal injury.” But the details of these incidents were redacted. 

IRS raids have been described as “military style.” Victims have told of being in a “deep depression that lasted a year.” Some of the raids were described as “Gestapo-like” when Congress investigated these charges, as witnesses testified behind sheets with their voices disguised as though they were informing on the mafia. 

The IRS also has remarkably shoddy evidence storage practices. During onsite inspections, a 2014 inspector general report found “some sites had evidence placed in hallways, stacked outside cubicles, and in break rooms. In addition, seven of the nine offices did not keep grand jury material in a separate, secure area. The grand jury material was intermingled with non-grand jury evidence and other case file information.”  

In all nine sites inspected, the inspector general found that none of them had an Evidence Access Control Log. When questioned, IRS management said they didn’t think it was “necessary.”

The IRS has not earned the trust of the American people. In one recent example, the agency willfully destroyed more than 30 million active paper files submitted by taxpayers. This quantity of paper would reach a height of two miles if stacked in a single pile. The IRS destroyed the files and then didn’t bother to tell anyone about it. Only an onsite inspection revealed the occurrence.

The agency has proven to be unable or unwilling to safeguard personal taxpayer data. Fifteen months ago, it was revealed that a thief or leaker appeared to have gained comprehensive, top-to-bottom access to everyone’s tax filings. The person or persons sent thousands of files — covering a period of 15 years — to the progressive news outlet, Pro Publica, which just happened to publish details right as Democrats were kicking off their tax hike effort.

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen immediately vowed to get to the bottom of it. But since then, crickets. It does not appear to be a priority for the IRS or the Biden administration.

The agency is even incapable of being entrusted with taxpayer-funded vehicles. The inspector general found the agency already has too many cars and cannot show documentation that the vehicles are used strictly for official business. 

In an audit sample, the IRS watchdog found that three agents logged between 95,000 and 272,000 miles in a calendar year. The utilization criteria are 7,200 miles per year or less than a tenth of the mileage these agents logged. 

And now the Democrat bill language calls for the purchase of a new fleet of cars for the IRS.

The legislation also calls for additional money for IRS “office rent.” Simply put, this is laughable, as 53% of IRS employees “work from home” full time and do not set foot in an office. The agency should consider reducing its office footprint to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.

It is not surprising that Democrats want to supersize the IRS, because most of the new agents will join the IRS union which gives 100% of its PAC spending to Democrats. Imagine how much additional revenue will be generated for Democrat campaign coffers over the next decade.

The American taxpayer deserves better than the current iteration of the IRS. We give up so much of our incomes and livelihoods to an agency that cannot even be trusted to treat us with dignity or to handle our money and personal information in a cautious, respectful manner.

It’s no wonder the Democrats rushed the bill through before too many Americans could notice.

• Ben Susser is a communications associate at Americans for Tax Reform


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