With Senate Democrats passing the $740 billion “Inflation Reduction Act” Sunday, Americans might see an extra 87,000 new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents providing taxpayers with “better service,” according to one liberal lawmaker.
Amid high inflation and a recession, U.S. Senators broke even on voting for the legislation. All 50 Democrat Senators supported, and all 50 Republicans rejected the act, allowing Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie vote.
While the bill emphasizes spending toward climate and health packages — an extra $80 billion would primarily enhance IRS enforcement and operations while modernizing new technology systems. IRS enforcement aims to ramp up auditing the wealthy and impose a minimum tax on large corporations over the next decade.
However, the number of new agents has working-class Americans concerned that they could see a tax hike, considering Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) once said raising taxes during a recession is wrong, Fox News reports.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) attempted to ease taxpayer worries to “Fox News Sunday” host Mike Emanuel when asked if hiring 87,000 new IRS agents would “scare the heck out of millions of Americans.”
“Millions of Americans aren’t going to be impacted by that other than getting better service from the IRS having their telephone answer getting the questions they need in order to comply with our tax laws,” Cardin said. “The auditing is going to be focused on those of high income, the large corporations, etc.”
IRS commissioner Charles P. Rettig told Congress that if the agency were given the additional $80 billion through the legislation, it would not increase audits of households earning less than $400,000, the New York Times reports.
The Washington Post reports more than half of the agency’s audits last year targeted taxpayers earning less than $75,000, with 40% earning income tax credits. Data also shows the agency lost more than 16,000 employees since 2010.
The Associated Press reports that a senior administration official from the U.S. Treasury Department said the bill could raise a net of $400 billion in the next ten years. The net increase could improve the federal agencies’ customer service team, who generally answers only 15% of its calls compared to the remaining callers waiting on hold while the next representative finishes helping other customers.
“So there’s no reason to be fearful,” Sen. Cardin added. “And if you have paid your taxes and if you comply with our laws, you should want to make sure everyone else does that.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told CNN State of the Union host Dana Bash he believes the IRS would target the highest income Americans.
“As the saying goes, that’s where the money is,” Blumenthal said, referencing the quote from the 1930s bank robber Willie Sutton when asked why he robbed banks. “That’s where they’re going to look to collect.”
“The idea that there’s going to be this army of IRS agents … descending on the average American is just preposterous,” he added.
The Washington Post reports Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) spoke at a news conference last week, saying the proposed spending for the federal service would “put the IRS on steroids,” adding the total amount to about a million per IRS agent.
“You don’t need that many IRS agents to go after a few people they say are very, very rich,” Barrasso said, adding the bill would impact “families, farmers and the small businesses of Americans, that’s who’s going to bear the burden of this legislation.”
New taxes proposed in the bill show it would raise some $258 billion in new revenue by imposing a 15% minimum tax on companies with more than $1 billion in profits and force companies to follow IRS account principles when reporting income.
House Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) introduced an amendment to create exemptions for the 15% corporate minimum tax established by the bill.
Thune said of the IRS on the Senate floor last week that it only succeeded in answering about one out of every 50 phone calls during the 2021 tax season.
“Yet 4 percent of the $80 billion is going to taxpayer services; 57 percent goes to enforcement so that the IRS can spend more time harassing taxpayers around this country,” Thune added.
The bill now heads over to the U.S. House of Representatives, where members are expected to reconvene at the end of the week to vote on the proposed legislation.