Authored by Naveen Athrappully via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) intends to raise its enforcement personnel by 40 percent by the end of this fiscal year, with revenue agents seeing the largest workforce increase.
Out of the 5,462 net additions, 4,704 will be revenue agents who are tasked with conducting “face-to-face audits of more complex returns.”
The tax agency intends to add a net 493 special agents for the year, who are armed officials investigating “potential criminal activities.” Staffing of revenue officers will rise by 265 employees. Revenue officers are tasked with collecting delinquent taxes and securing delinquent returns.
By fiscal 2024-end, revenue agents will comprise close to 70 percent of the enforcement personnel. Armed special agents will make up 13.5 percent and revenue officers will account for 16.4 percent.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provided the IRS with $79.4 billion in supplemental funding that is available for the agency until September 2031. By the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2023, the agency had used $3.5 billion of the funds.
The IRS spent $1.4 billion out of the $3.5 billion IRA funds on its employees, “nearly doubling expenditures in this object class category in the fourth quarter.”
Most of the labor costs were accounted for by taxpayer services, which the TIGTA said “helped support the IRS’s efforts to hire additional customer service representatives to answer taxpayer telephone calls, as well as employees to staff Taxpayer Assistance Centers for the 2023 filing season.”
The IRS employed 89,767 people by the end of fiscal 2023. In addition to hiring staff to improve taxpayer services, the tax agency “focused on expanding enforcement on taxpayers with complex tax filings and high-dollar noncompliance to address the tax gap.”
“Tax gap” refers to the difference between taxes owed and paid to the government. The IRS claims the tax gap rose to $688 billion in 2021 alone, which is $192 billion more than estimates from 2014–16 and $138 billion more than 2017-19.
In October, IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel pointed to the tax gap to justify the importance of “increased IRS compliance efforts on key areas.” At the time, he said that the agency would use IRA funding to strengthen compliance on “high-income and high-wealth individuals” as well as businesses.
Out of the $79.4 billion in IRA funds, IRS had set aside $45.6 billion for enforcement. Taxpayer services were allocated $3.2 billion. Administration activities like business systems modernization and operations support were allocated $4.8 billion and $25.3 billion respectively.
The IRS’s decision to use most of the IRA funds for enforcement was questioned by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) at a joint subcommittee hearing in October last year.
“This funding spree prioritizes enforcement over improving taxpayer services,” she said while noting that some of her constituents complained about call wait times when dialing the IRS. A few of them tried to get in touch with the IRS for several months but could not.
Ms. McClain said that even she had faced such difficulties. “If a private business did what the IRS does on a daily basis, it would quickly go out of business.”
In the 2022 fiscal year, the IRS raked in a record $4.9 trillion in taxes, which was $790 billion more than the previous fiscal. The agency collected $72 billion in revenues from enforcement activities, which was well above the historical average of $59 billion.
There are also concerns that the IRS could use some of its IRA funding to boost enforcement on individuals making less than $400,000 per year.
When Commissioner Werfel was asked about this during a hearing last year, he did not explicitly guarantee that the agency would not increase the number of audits for this income group.
Out of the $3.5 billion the IRS has used from IRA funding so far, almost $2 billion went to supplement its fiscal year 2023 appropriations, the TIGTA report stated.
IRS officials said they had to take $2 billion from IRA funds as the amount it received for spending in 2023 “was insufficient to cover normal operating expenses and did not include adjustments to account for inflation, estimated at approximately $460 million from fiscal year 2022.”
Out of the $3.5 billion, operations support took the largest chunk at $1.5 billion, followed by taxpayer services, business systems modernization, and enforcement activities.
The IRS calculates it would need $818 million more than last year’s funding in 2024 just to continue regular operations. The tax agency is yet to receive its fiscal 2024 appropriations.
The TIGTA pointed out that if Congress keeps the budget flat for 2024, the IRS will have to plug the $818 million shortfall using IRA funds. “This means less funds available for IRS transformation efforts.”
“Any reduction in the IRS’s annual appropriated funding, including inadequate funding to cover inflationary increases, will require the IRS to shift IRA funding to cover general operating expenses … Without the restoration in the IRS’s annual appropriation, IRA funding will cover only approximately two-thirds of the IRS’s planned modernization.”