The Internal Revenue Service is finally semi-functional, which House Republicans apparently see as a good time to gut the agency entirely, even though doing so would cost the United States billions of dollars.
An independent watchdog agency reported Wednesday that the IRS began 2023 on a high note, having reduced its backlog of unprocessed tax returns by two-thirds over the past year. “We have begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Erin Collins, the IRS’s national taxpayer advocate, wrote in the report. “I am just not sure how much further we have to travel before we see sunlight.”
But House Republicans, who control the chamber, voted Monday to rescind nearly $80 billion recently allotted to the IRS and will soon vote on the Fair Tax Act, which would eliminate the agency entirely. While neither measure will pass the Democratic-controlled Senate or White House, both are indicative of Republican plans to undermine any gains Democrats have made in the past two years.
The IRS recently received a massive $80 billion infusion from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which Phillip Swagel, head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, predicted would produce more than $180 billion in revenue over the next decade. The money would help hire and train more agents, as well as modernize the IRS’s internal systems.
Republicans have argued that improving the IRS would lead to more audits for middle-class people, spreading a fearmongering, bananas theory that the new agents would actually be part of a highly weaponized “shadow army.”
In reality, as The Washington Post noted, Democrats point out that “audits are meant to collect money from very rich people who are avoiding taxes.”
The IRS is no one’s favorite agency. It is chronically understaffed and underfunded, and burdened with a seemingly Sisyphean task. Even though it has dramatically reduced its backlog, it still has 10 million unprocessed tax returns from previous years to get through. It has also come under intense scrutiny recently for apparently failing to audit former President Donald Trump’s taxes until two years into his term, in violation of standard operating policy.
But Republicans have a long-standing vendetta against the tax agency, and they certainly oppose the Biden administration, even at the cost of progress and their own purported ideals. Despite constantly talking about fiscal responsibility and needing to reduce the federal deficit, the House GOP still voted to rescind the IRS funding, even though doing so would actually increase the deficit by more than $114 billion.