- Democrats' Inflation Reduction Act contains nearly $ 80 billion in funding for the IRS.
- Republicans have said that the funding will go towards hiring an "army" of IRS agents.
- Sen. Ron Wyden said that Republicans want to save their billionaire friends from audits.
The IRS is set to get nearly $ 80 billion from Democrats' big climate and tax spending package, earmarked to help the overstrained agency improve tax enforcement and customer service — and Republicans haven't been pleased.
Republicans have seized upon the idea that the increased funding could result in an "army" of 87,000 agents, although that number comes from a Treasury Department report estimating that the IRS could hire that many new employees by 2031, according to Time, and a Treasury Department official told Time that the majority of the new hires won't even be IRS agents.
"If Democrats are going to keep declaring everything to be free, Biden is going to need a lot more taxpayer money," Senator Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida, said in prepared floor remarks on Wednesday, speaking on his legislation to rescind the funding for the IRS. "That, my fellow Americans, is how we get full circle back to the supersized IRS. It's a vicious cycle to fund a radical, socialist agenda.
But Senator Ron Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, isn't humoring that argument.
"Even senators who should supposedly know better are spinning wild fantasy stories about 87,000 agents who are armed to the teeth and coming to the doors of innocent small business people," Wyden said in floor remarks on Wednesday.
Instead, he said, "by attacking the IRS, Republicans are helping high-flying tax cheats get away with breaking the law." The agency is "badly outmatched" by wealthy tax cheats, Wyden said; IRS commissioner Charles Rettig has said that the amount of taxes going uncollected every year could be upwards of $ 1 trillion. A 2021 study from IRS researchers and academics found that the top 1% of American earners did not report about 21% of their income.
"What so many Republicans want to do is preserve the status quo, so only the little guys get audited while billionaire friends" get off scot-free, Wyden said.
Instead, Wyden stressed that some of the funding would go towards customer service, something that the embattled agency has particularly struggled with since the onset of the pandemic. With a shrinking budget and low staffing levels compounded by new pandemic-era responsibilities like stimulus checks, the IRS accumulated a backlog of millions of unprocessed returns — which it's still digging its way out of. Those processing delays — paired with the IRS's inability to answer the phone and provide prompt customer service — have meant some Americans waited months to receive thousands in tax refunds.
"The far right and the wealthy tax cheats want the IRS to apparently continue to struggle because it makes it easier to attack and vilify. That's why we've heard so many falsehoods about thousands of new IRS agents," Wyden said. "I don't know where this number came from, absent nonsense, conjured out of nothing."