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Increased Funding for the Internal Revenue Service Fuels Conspiracy Theories of a “Shadow Army”

It has been referred to as President Joe Biden’s “shadow army,” described as a strike force that uses assault rifles to shake down small businesses, and compared to a militia of auditors on search-and-destroy missions. All of these descriptions are accurate.

The passage of a bill backed by Democrats that gives the Internal Revenue Service $80 billion to beef up its ability to go after tax cheats has resulted in a new level of animosity on the part of Republicans toward the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This animosity has been building for decades.

The legislation, which Vice President Biden signed into law this week, will make it possible for the struggling agency to hire more than 80,000 people, replace its antiquated technological systems, and improve its capacity to communicate with taxpayers.

In 1970, when the agency processed a significantly smaller number of individual tax returns, it had the same number of employees as it does today. Since 2010, its enforcement workforce has decreased by more than 30 per cent, while the number of audits conducted on millionaires has dropped by more than 70 per cent.

Late in June, millions of taxpayers were still waiting for the government agency to file their tax returns for the year 2021.

Republicans, who have long accused the IRS of unfairly targeting conservatives, have long accused the IRS of unfairly targeting conservatives.

However, Republicans have seized on the law to fan unfounded conspiracy theories about the threat that mom-and-pop shops and middle-class Americans will face from an emboldened tax collector.

The magnitude and velocity with which rumours about the agency have propagated are omens of the political and logistical obstacles that the Biden administration will face as it embarks on the most comprehensive revamp of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) since the agency’s founding.

Republicans have embraced the idea that a larger IRS is poised to be weaponized against them, and they have done so everywhere from Twitter and TikTok to newsletters and cable news. In doing so, they frequently distort facts to make their points.

“This has become the lightning-rod issue that’s really aggravated and activated conservative activists around the country,” said Stephen Moore, a conservative economist affiliated with FreedomWorks, a right-leaning organisation that promotes small government.

Moore is quoted as saying that “this has become the lightning-rod issue that’s really aggravated and activated conservative activists around the country.” “In my opinion, this is nothing short of outrageous.”

Moore, whose own personal battle with the IRS came to light in 2019, has been at the helm of a coalition of conservative activists for the better part of a year now to “kill the law.”

Now that it has been approved, Republicans have increased their attempts to malign the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), including misconstruing how large it would expand and what additional employees will be doing as a result of its expansion.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, posted an alarming commercial on Twitter last week with the title “Stop Biden’s shadow army of 87,000 IRS agents.”

The ad featured the sound of soldiers marching in the background and called attention to the agency’s targeting of Tea Party groups.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and a member of the Senate Finance Committee, issued a warning to viewers of Fox News last week that new agents with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), of which only a small percentage are authorised to carry firearms, may arrive with loaded “AK-15s” and be “ready to shoot some small-business person in Iowa.”

Grassley stated, “I think they’re coming for middle-class individuals and small-business people,” and he believed this to be the case.

You can picture the level of harassment that will be experienced by middle-class Americans and those who run small businesses as a result of the addition of 87,000 more employees.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is increasing the size of its workforce to keep up with the rising number of taxpayers and to fill the positions vacated by retiring employees.

Within the following ten years, the Biden administration anticipates that around 50,000 IRS employees will retire and that the agency will hire approximately 87,000 new employees, bringing the total number of employees at the agency up to approximately 120,000.

Over the next ten years, it is anticipated that the number of law enforcement agents will increase from 6,500 to approximately 13,000.

In addition, despite assertions made on social media that the new employees hired by the IRS will be heavily armed, a Treasury official stated that only 1% of the new employees would be agents working in jobs that require them to carry guns. These agents would be working in jobs such as auditing and enforcing tax laws.

Despite this, the Internal Revenue Service recently modified a job advertisement for criminal investigators in response to the reaction, removing the requirement that applicants “be willing to use deadly force, if necessary” as one of the role’s primary responsibilities. A crucial criterion that has been added to the advertisement after it was revised is “Be legally licenced to carry a firearm.”

According to Khaalid Walls, a spokesperson for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), “the wording adjustment on one webpage followed continuous misstatements and errors about IRS workers carrying weapons.”


Ahead of the upcoming midterm elections, which will determine which political party controls Congress, Republicans have been eager to feed anxieties about a scaled-up Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Rep. Kevin Brady, a Republican from Texas and the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, suggested this week that the Biden administration had lied about its pledge to not increase audit rates of taxpayers who make less than $400,000 by stating that families making less than $75,000 would face 710,000 additional audits.

Brady is the top Republican in the House Ways and Means Committee. Brady also noted that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would need to target families with a middle income to produce the kind of tax revenue that it anticipated the new law will create.

On Fox News, he made the statement that families from the middle class “need to be afraid.”

Users on social media platforms such as Truth Social, the social media network that was founded by former President Donald Trump, referred to the 87,000 employees as “thugs” and “terrorists.”

They also compared the hires to the Gestapo, the KGB, and even warriors for the Roman Empire. In addition to Cruz, conservative commentator Dan Bongino and members of Congress from Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana have begun referring to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as an “army.”

Conservative personalities with hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter questioned why the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) suddenly needed “a massive stockpile of guns and ammo” (the agency’s spending on ammunition this year is actually in line with its many years of purchases, according to fact-checkers), and they accused Democrats of “weaponizing” the agency with agents “trained to kill Americans.”

Users on TikTok speculated that the Internal Revenue Service was coming to collect their firearms while fully armed and vowed to retaliate against them.

On August 9, election conspiracist and Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake posted on Truth Social that “not a single one of us is safe.” Lake is backed by President Trump in her bid for the governorship of Arizona.

She and other prominent users hypothesised that it was not a coincidence that “they hired 87,000 IRS agents the day before” the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, even though the bill authorising the hiring had not yet been signed into law. She was joined in this line of thinking by other prominent users.

According to John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, the right-wing outrage over the search of the property dovetailed with the charged language about war and dictatorship that has been circulating for weeks on platforms like Truth Social and helped to amplify the IRS backlash. This language has been circulating for weeks on platforms like Truth Social.

“It was a piece of disinformation that was circulating and prominent at the time that involved government overreach,” he said. “It was a piece of disinformation that involved government overreach.”

According to data provided by Zignal Labs, the percentage of people talking about the Internal Revenue Service and its hiring plans increased by 254% after the Mar-a-Lago search in comparison to the previous week.

This increase occurred after Vice President Biden brought up the Inflation Reduction Act in late July. Following the search, there was a rise in conversation about the “armed IRS” and “IRS firearms” throughout social media, internet forums, broadcast channels, and traditional media by 1,044% and 532% respectively.

In the past, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has engaged in inappropriate behaviour, such as unfairly targeting conservative groups who asked for tax-exempt status during the administration of Barack Obama.

The agency admitted in 2013 that it had been using terms like “Tea Party” and “patriot” as a shortcut for determining whether or not organisations were engaged in social welfare, which would qualify them for tax-exempt status, or whether or not they might be political organisations.

This was done to decide whether or not organisations were eligible for tax-exempt status. The acts of the agency, which were described by former President Barack Obama as “inexcusable,” finally led to Obama demanding the resignation of the acting IRS commissioner.

According to a study that came out in 2017, the Treasury inspector general discovered that progressive organisations had also been subjected to inappropriate scrutiny.

Despite all of the advertisements and bluster, it is still unclear whether the message is getting through to voters in advance of the midterm elections.

After being informed concisely about the contents of the legislation, respondents to a survey that was carried out this week by the market research firm YouGov on behalf of The Economist magazine indicated that they were inclined to approve the measure that included financing for the IRS. About one-third of those who responded did not agree with it.

A separate poll conducted by Morning Consult and Politico discovered that the vast majority of voters do not have concerns about being subjected to an audit by a strengthened IRS. This is because the majority of voters believe that high-income Americans will be the ones to bear the brunt of the increase in audits.

The administration of Vice President Joe Biden has been working to dispel misinformation and calm people’s anxieties. It is argued that the reorganised Internal Revenue Service would place a greater emphasis on providing superior service to taxpayers, and that honest taxpayer will have less to worry about as a result of audits being more narrowly focused on tax evaders.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen outlined her top priorities for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in a memo that she sent this week to the agency’s commissioner, Charles P. Rettig. In the memo, she reaffirmed that the IRS must prioritise going after wealthy tax evaders and cracking down on tax evasion by corporations.

“These investments will not result in households earning $400,000 per year or less or small businesses seeing an increase in the likelihood that they are audited relative to historical levels,” Yellen wrote. “This is because these investments will not result in increased funding for the Internal Revenue Service.”

John Koskinen, who served as commissioner of the IRS under both the Obama and Trump administrations, expressed his opinion that the attacks on the agency by Republican lawmakers were irresponsible and that he worried that they could lead to violence against members of the agency. Koskinen served as commissioner of the IRS under both the Obama and Trump administrations.

He claimed that the only taxpayers who would wind up having to pay more were those who were not paying their taxes, and he stated that agents do not use their firearms without a valid reason to protect themselves or others.

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“The idea that the IRS is going to show up and audit all sorts of people for the fun of it is either ignoring reality or just don’t know how the IRS operates,” Koskinen said. “The IRS does not operate in such a manner.” “Honest taxpayers, who make up the vast bulk of the population, won’t be disturbed at all by this at all.”

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