early and often

‘Here Come the Tax Auditors!’ Republicans Scream in Torrent of Dishonest Ads

Blake Masters tells a fib. Photo: Blake Masters for Senate

There were a lot of items in the Inflation Reduction Act, which was enacted by congressional Democrats in August. The biggest provision involved $370 billion in clean-energy investments, and there were also two big health-care initiatives (one allowing Medicare negotiation of some prescription drug prices, the other continuing Obamacare subsidies for low-income people). A corporate minimum tax on companies with particularly high profits helped pay for the benefits. But it’s another, smaller revenue-raising measure in the IRA that has drawn intense attention in a host of demagogic Republican attack ads: an $87 billion expenditure to hire an estimated 87,000 employees at the IRS, which is expected to increase revenue collections by $200 billion over the next decade.

The expenditure addressed long-apparent personnel shortfalls throughout the IRS, which has created a huge and unprecedented backlog in processing of paper tax returns. The agency has 80,000 employees, compared to 117,000 three decades ago, and faces an expected wave of 50,000 retirements. While part of the new money ($46 billion) will indeed be used for enforcement-related functions, the agency’s ultimate boss, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, has instructed it not to increase audit rates on taxpayers earning under $400,000. That leaves corporations and wealthy individuals to bear the brunt of whatever increased enforcement measures the IRS undertakes. In addition to the hirings needed to process returns, IRA money will also go toward implementing better technology and shoring up the IRS’s inadequate customer-service operations.

These unthreatening improvements are not what you hear about in GOP ads targeting Democrats who voted for the Inflation Reduction Act. This ad from Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters is typical of the genre:

I guess for those earning over $400,000 a year, the “coming after you” language might be accurate. But unless you want to abolish audits, the IRS, and federal revenue collection entirely, the idea of enforcing the tax liabilities of people in that income category shouldn’t seem all that controversial.

Another ad, from Washington Senate candidate Tiffany Smiley, manages to wrap multiple lies into a claim that “Joe Biden and Patty Murray” want to send 87,000 new auditors (enough to fill a stadium!) to “harass the middle class” in order to pay for student-loan forgiveness, or as she puts it, “paying for somebody else’s law degree.”

Stretching the truth in campaign ads is not something only Republicans do, of course; some Democrats make it sound like their Republican opponents are plotting to abolish Social Security and Medicare and throw old folks out in the cold if they so much as mention the programs. But there’s stretching the truth and just making stuff up. And this claim that Democrats are emitting cartoon-villain cackles as they “send” tens of thousands of auditors “after you” or “after the middle class” is truly so distorted that they might as well accuse their enemies of worshiping Satan and preying on children. Oh wait.

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Republicans Scream About IRS Auditors in Dishonest Ads