Where Things Stand: Scott Escalates ‘87,000 New Armed IRS Agents’ Conspiracy Theory

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TAMPA, FLORIDA - JULY 23: Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) speaks during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit held at the Tampa Convention Center on July 23, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. The event features student activism, ... TAMPA, FLORIDA - JULY 23: Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) speaks during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit held at the Tampa Convention Center on July 23, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. The event features student activism, leadership training, and a chance to participate in networking events with political leaders. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) pulled a publicity stunt this afternoon by releasing an open letter addressed to the “American Job Seeker” warning anyone who might be considering applying for a gig at the Internal Revenue Service that they need not apply.

That’s because, in his telling, any new funding being funneled into the agency after the passage of Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act will be reversed if Republicans take back Congress after the Midterms. Vowing to gut the agency once Republicans are back in power, Scott referred to any new job openings at the IRS — after the Democratic bill allocated $80 billion in additional funding for the agency, in part to help with staffing shortages — as a “short-term gig.”

Gutting the IRS is a hobbyhorse for Scott and many other conservatives of his ilk who see increased funding for the tax agency as a threat to their reelection prospects, as more IRS funding means more resources and man power for the agency to audit the wealthy and clamp down on tax cheats or unreported income. Republicans have been slashing the IRS’s budget for years and much of the $80 billion in new funding for the agency will go toward updating the IRS’ outdated tech systems and simply getting staffing up to the levels needed to collect the billions in taxes each year that slip through the cracks. The Congressional Budget Office predicted that the allocation of an additional $80 billion to the agency would increase revenue by $200 billion.

But the issue is personal for Scott, who proposed cutting the agency’s funding in half earlier this year as part of his “Rescue America” plan — a plan that was meant to serve as a policy platform for Republicans ahead of the Midterms, but one that has been widely criticized even by those in GOP leadership.

And in writing his “open letter” to Americans seeking work, Scott also boosted a new Republican conspiracy theory that reared its head rather publicly last week during the House floor debate ahead of the passage of the IRA and has since spread rapidly on social media. GOPers have seized on the allocation of additional funding for staffing at the IRS as some sort of indication that the agency intends to hire 87,000 new armed IRS agents who will go door to door intimidating middle and low-income Americans about taxes. The “armed agents” idea is hyperbolic spin on the fact that the IRS does employ about 2,000 agents in the criminal division of the enforcement arm of the agency who are required to carry guns.

Per my colleague Kate Riga’s report on the passage of the IRA last week:

The 87,000 number comes from a 2021 Treasury Department report, specific to previous legislation, which estimated that funding from the Biden administration would allow the hiring of 86,852 full-time IRS employees by 2031.  

Despite the Republican spin, not all of those employees will be working in enforcement, but will be spread across various departments.

In his letter, Scott made the outlandish claim that with this new legislation, Democrats are aiming to create “an IRS super-police” force that can break into your home and kill you.

“We aren’t talking about joining your local police force, or even the U.S. military – this is the federal agency charged with collecting taxes,” Scott said in the letter. “The IRS is making it very clear that you not only need to be ready to audit and investigate your fellow hardworking Americans, your neighbors and friends, you need to be ready and, to use the IRS’s words, willing, to kill them.”

It’s gross spin that has gained traction among Republicans and within the right-wing media swamp in recent days — with some Republicans even linking the additional funding for the agency with the unrelated FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago last week, as part of the DOJ’s investigation of Trump taking classified documents to his Florida residence after leaving the White House.

“If the FBI can raid the home of a former US President, imagine what 87,000 more IRS agents will do to you,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) tweeted last week.

We’ll keep an eye on this.

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