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Promise-Breaking IRS

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles P. Rettig | Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

Liar, liar: Back in August 2022, when some of us were fresh-faced and naive, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assured us that their $ 80 billion infusion of cash (over the course of a decade, so they could hire some 87,000 new workers, including but not limited to men with guns) would actually be a means of targeting millionaire and billionaire scofflaws, not ordinary middle-class earners.

At the time, I voiced skepticism: correspondence audits and other audits on low- and middle-income earners are simply the easiest to conduct. The IRS has historically spent an awful lot of time targeting these groups, not monied tax dodgers who can hire teams of accountants, so why would this time be different?

Vindicated: “The Internal Revenue Service got an audit of its own in time for Tax Day, and two irregularities jump out,” reports The Wall Street Journal, having labored through the latest Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reports. “President Biden’s plan to hire a new army of tax collectors is falling flat, and the agents already at work are targeting the middle class.”

“As of last summer, 63% of new audits targeted taxpayers with income of less than $ 200,000,” reports the Journal. “Only a small overall share reached the very highest earners, while 80% of audits covered filers earning less than $ 1 million.”

Compare these real-world outcomes with the assurances of the IRS, given less than two years ago.

Empty assurances: “These resources are absolutely not about increasing audit scrutiny on small businesses or middle-income Americans. As we’ve been planning, our investment of these enforcement resources is designed around the Department of the Treasury’s directive that audit rates will not rise relative to recent years for households making under $ 400,000,” wrote IRS commissioner Charles Rettig in an August 2022 letter to concerned senators.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was a bit sassier. “Contrary to the misinformation from opponents of this legislation, small business or households earning $ 400,000 per year or less will not see an increase in the chances that they are audited,” she wrote in a letter to Rettig.

It’s almost like they didn’t tell us the truth the first time around. But that’s not even the most embarrassing thing in the report: The IRS had set a goal of hiring 3,700 new agents in the first year of boosted funding. Instead, in the first six months, they’d hired 34.

Awkwardly, “revenue agent staffing had actually decreased by 8%, or more than 650 employees, between the end of fiscal 2019 and March 2023,” per a previous watchdog report. And it’s not just hiring that’s in trouble: The agency has completed just 33 percent of its fiscal year 2023 milestones outlined in its strategic operating plan, which is…tough given that the year is over.

Scenes from New York: Over on X/Twitter, we’re apparently doing “is it OK to smoke fentanyl inside subway cars?” That’ll be a hard no from me, chief.

Consider this your cheerful Friday reminder that, just because we may be libertarians and/or city dwellers, we’re not obligated to tolerate vast amounts of public disorder and threat every time we want to use the city services our tax dollars have (nonconsensually) been funneled toward. Privatization would be one way of solving this. Forcing people to actually bear the true cost of subway fare, instead of subsidizing it, would be another (though that would fly in the face of the original vision of the subway-builders, that it be a democratizing tool, allowing central parts of the city to remain in reach for the lower classes who may live in outer boroughs). But the most obvious option would be to simply enforce existing laws against fare-beating and subway-system drug use.


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