Republicans call it an ‘army,’ but IRS hires will replace retirees, do it, says Treasury


A security camera hangs near a corner of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington May 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Aug 19 (Reuters) – New hires from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over the next decade will mostly replace retired baby boomers, answer taxpayer questions and program new computers , said US Treasury officials and tax experts, responding to Republican claims that the IRS will hire 87,000 new officers to harass Americans about their taxes.

Republican attack ads and social media posts follow a decade of Republican stint budget cuts in Congress for the IRS, leaving it with 16,000 fewer employees in 2021 than in 2010. The agency is responsible for collecting the bulk of nearly $5 trillion in annual US revenue.

Days after President Joe Biden signed the Cut Inflation Act that includes $80 billion in new IRS funding over 10 years, Republicans, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, continued to criticize this funding on social networks.

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“I think it was basically a middle finger for the American public that this is what they think of you,” DeSantis said at a press conference Wednesday. “All the issues we have to deal with and they think the way is to get 87,000 IRS agents.”

Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, said Democrats plan to hire an “army of 87,000 IRS agents,” more than the population of Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Others, including Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, have repeatedly said 87,000 new officers will be armed.

A Reuters fact check found that only 2,100 special agents in the IRS’ Criminal Investigations Branch are authorized to carry firearms.

The figure of 87,000 exists, buried in a May 2021 Treasury Department Report when the Biden administration was pushing a bigger spending bill with the same $80 billion in funding from the IRS. The report estimates the money could fund 86,852 full-time hires through 2031.

But the actual net increase in staff would be much lower, as the IRS expects more than 50,000 employees to retire in the next five years alone, said Natasha Sarin, Treasury adviser for policy and tax administration.

Claims that the 87,000 are listeners, law enforcement officers or weapons are “deeply dangerous nonsense – and false”, Sarin told Reuters.

“The speed and voracity with which (Republicans) are getting there is really a testament to how important those resources are going to be — because there are a lot of wealthy tax cheats out there who stand to lose a lot,” Sarin said.

The new resources aim to close an estimated $600 billion annual “tax gap” – taxes due but unpaid – by cracking down on tax avoidance by the wealthy, especially those with opaque sources of income.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the funding would increase federal revenue by $204 billion over 10 years, which is critical for climate-related and health care spending.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen this week asked IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to produce an $80 billion spending and hiring plan within six months, but not tighten scrutiny people earning less than $400,000. Read more

Sarin declined to say how many tax agents the IRS wants to hire — a job category that stood at 8,321 in fiscal year 2021.

MAKE THE IRS EASIER ONLINE BANKING

After offsetting attrition, the IRS’ hiring plan includes tens of thousands of new customer service employees and information technology specialists.

These hires will develop technology tools to identify more high-end audit targets and provide a customer experience comparable to online banking, she said.

“We will have an IRS that can serve Americans the way they deserve. That means an IRS, for example, that can answer the phone,” Sarin added.

Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Tax Drafting Committee, disputed the Treasury’s claim that many of the new hires would replace retirees, with his office saying on Twitter, ” existing budget can replace them. They are all new.”

To target wealthy taxpayers and handle sophisticated audits, Sarin said the IRS needs mid-career people with experience in accounting and often tax law.

Janet Holtzblatt, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank, said it would be difficult for the IRS to compete with the private sector for experienced employees in a tight job market because the IRS has salary limits based on federal salary scales. .

“From an IRS perspective, one area where they might be able to compete is providing a better quality of life,” Holtzblatt said. This includes greater job security, government health care, retirement benefits, and regular work hours.

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Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Heather Timmons and Josie Kao

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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