Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Daniel Werfel has unveiled the federal agency’s plan for hiring armed enforcement agents.
Werfel has provided details about plans to hire armed IRS agents to serve in the agency’s criminal investigations division.
The announcement comes amid concerns from Republicans about a proliferation of gun-toting tax enforcers.
In a call with reporters, Werfel said that the share of staff working in the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) unit would not climb above the current level.
The IRS-CI unit currently accounts for around 2.6 percent of the IRS’s overall workforce.
There are “no plans to increase” the hiring rate at the IRS-CI unit, Werfel insisted.
“That will stay at its current rate.”
The IRS-CI examines potential criminal activity related to tax crimes and makes recommendations for prosecutions to the tax division of the Department of Justice.
Agents at the criminal investigations division are authorized to carry guns and use lethal force.
According to former IRS Special Agent Robert Nordlander, armed tax enforcement agents are called “gun-toters.”
The armed special agents in the unit are responsible for enforcing those parts of the tax code in which violations amount to crimes.
There were roughly 2,077 special agents in the criminal investigations unit as of the 2022 budget year, which represents around 2.6 percent of the IRS’s entire workforce, according to the IRS-CI’s annual report.
As of the 2022 budget year, the IRS employed 80,006 full-time staffers, according to the agency’s strategic operating plan released on April 6.
The plan indicates how the IRS plans to use the $80 billion in new funding provided by the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act.
The new cash infusion would be used to hire thousands of new employees and improve tax enforcement and customer service.
The IRS claims that the funding will be used to target wealthy taxpayers and corporations with audits.
However, concerns have been raised that the agency will ramp up efforts to crack down on everyday Americans, as Slay News reported.
The plan indicates the agency intends to hire nearly 20,000 new full-time employees during the 2023 and 2024 fiscal years, including 8,782 hires in enforcement and 13,883 in taxpayer service.
Assuming no attrition owing to resignation and retirement, that would put the IRS’s total workforce by 2024 at roughly 100,000 employees.
In order to maintain the IRS-CI’s 2.6 percent share of the entire workforce, it would need to bring up the number of armed agents to roughly 2,600 from the current 2,077.
Republicans have warned that the IRS’s $80 billion cash infusion would be used to hire an “army of 87,000” tax enforcers.
The 87,000 figure was revealed in a 2021 Treasury Department report that estimated that the IRS could hire 86,852 full-time employees over the course of a decade if it were to receive an $80 billion funding boost.
When the Inflation Reduction Act was passed, Republicans warned that the $80 billion in new IRS funding would be used to squeeze ordinary Americans for “every last penny.”
“87,000 more IRS enforcers would make the IRS bigger than the Pentagon, the State Department, and Border Patrol COMBINED,” Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a Twitter post last summer.
Democrat President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, former IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, and others have pushed back on such framing of the funding boost.
They’ve insisted the money would be used to increase collections from high-earners and help with customer service.
The Biden administration claims Americans earning less than $400,000 wouldn’t face increased scrutiny from the agency.
As regards armed staffers at the agency’s criminal investigations division, some have questioned the need for IRS agents to carry guns.
The IRS-CI itself says agents will be required to be willing and able to participate in “dangerous assignments” and to use “deadly force.”
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