By Tom Ozimek
House Republicans have released a draft bill that would halt the nearly $50 billion funding boost for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) enforcement in the “Inflation Reduction Act” and instead use the money to bolster border security.
Called the “Diverting IRS Resources to the Exigent Crisis Through (DIRECT) Funds for Border Security Act” (pdf), the legislation seeks to stop “Biden’s new IRS army from launching audits of middle-class families” and instead use the funds to hire more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, according to a press release.
“The Biden administration’s failure to secure the border and enforce our immigration laws has created an unmitigated disaster at our Southern Border that is impacting communities across the country,” Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.), co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
Calling President Joe Biden’s priorities “twisted,” Tenney alleged that the president and Congressional Democrats were ignoring the problem at the southern border and were “instead giving tens of billions of dollars to the IRS, not to improve its services but so they can audit an additional 700,000 working-class Americans.”
Republicans have accused the Biden administration of earmarking funds to hire an additional 87,000 IRS agents, some of whom would be used to target lower and middle-income Americans with audits.
Biden administration officials have insisted there would not be an increase in audit rates among Americans earning less than $400,000 per year.
“I direct that any additional resources—including any new personnel or auditors that are hired—shall not be used to increase the share of small business or households below the $400,000 threshold that are audited relative to historical levels,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in an Aug. 10 letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.
Yellen said enforcement resources would instead focus on “high-end compliance” and that small businesses and households earning $400,000 per year or less “will not see an increase in the chances that they are audited.”
Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have criticized Yellen’s remarks as wordplay. They argued that even if the share of audits among lower-income Americans stays constant, the IRS’ plans to increase the total number of audits would also mean an increase in the number of audits among lower earners.
The statement from Tenney’s office alleges that the additional IRS audits enabled by the enforcement funding boost would, in fact, mostly target lower- and middle-income Americans, contrary to the Biden administration’s claims.
“Americans don’t want more IRS audits; they want a secure border and safer streets,” Tenney said. “The DIRECT Funds for Border Security Act will deliver just that by providing CBP with the money needed to hire new agents.”
So far in fiscal year 2022, which ends on Sept. 30, there have been over 2 million illegal alien encounters along the southern border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This is the highest fiscal year total ever.
The new GOP bill dovetails with previous Republican efforts to curtail the growing power of the IRS.
A group of Republican senators introduced a bill on Sept. 12 that seeks to prevent any additional IRS funding from being used to audit Americans earning less than $400,000 per year.