When you’re pushing the narrative, you’ve gotta bury the lede. Bury it far out back after midnight.
The Internal Revenue Service does not plan to use the nearly $80 billion it’s set to receive in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to hire 87,000 new agents in order to target middle class Americans, a Treasury Department official told ABC News, rejecting a claim widely circulated by Republican lawmakers and right-wing media personalities.
The thing about lawyerly denials is that they very specifically deny a very specific thing.
Like the statement that the DOJ was not holding Trump’s passports which was true, only insofar as they had seized and then returned them.
A clear denial would have been that the IRS is not going to step up targeting of the middle class. That denial never actually comes.
Instead of quoting the spokeswoman, ABC News fills paragraphs with its own rendering of her words. That’s another dead giveaway. Here are her actual words.
“New staff will be hired to improve taxpayer services and experienced auditors who can take on corporate and high-end tax evaders, without increasing audit rates relative to historical norms for people earning under $400,000 each year,” she said.
Which words jump out at you there?
What are those historical norms, are they inflation adjusted, how far back will the IRS reach back to assert those norms? Who knows. What that means is that the denial is meaningless.
The spokeswoman could have simply said that the IRS won’t increase audits of the middle class. Instead, she provided plenty of elbow room for increasing audits.
Let’s look at audit declines in the short term based on this GAO report.
From tax years 2010 to 2019, audit rates of individual tax returns decreased for all income levels, as shown in figure 1.15 On average, individual tax returns were audited over three times more often for tax year 2010 (about 0.9 percent) than for tax year 2019 (0.25 percent). IRS officials attributed the overall decline in audit rates to decreased funding, and therefore reduced staffing to conduct audits
Which they will now have.
The GAO report notes a 92% decrease in audits of people earning $200K to $500K and a 76% decrease in audits of those earning $25K to $200K
There’s your “historical norms”.
Dig a little more and the historical norms get much worse.
Even a decade ago, the audit rate was sharply lower than in the 1970s, when the agency audited about 2.5% of individual returns.
From the IRS, here’s how things have changed and where Democrats would like to turn the clock back to.
In the early 1960’s, the percentage of individual tax returns that were audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was about 6 percent, and this percentage fell to 2.5 percent by the mid-1970’s. Over the next decade, the audit rate fell further to roughly 1 percent. According to the Inspector General for Tax Analysis (2002), taxpayer audit rates have fallen another 56 percent between 1997 and 2001. As a result, at present, less than 1 percent of all individual tax returns are audited.
6%. Those are “historical norms”.
The media will use Yellen’s letter and Treasury Department denials like these to ‘fact check’ Republicans pointing out the truth to death. What the media won’t do is ask for the actual target audit percentage rate.
That would expose the big lie.
Let’s close this out by remembering that the Inflation Increase Act nightmare didn’t have to happen if Republicans, from the top down, hadn’t thrown away the Senate through a combination of incompetence, terrible messaging, inflation and poor preparation. This is the cost of losing the Senate. And there are signs of history repeating itself in 2024.
Among a lot of conservative activists, there’s well-earned contempt for RINOs. And as destructive as the likes of Romney or Collins are, a Democrat majority is far worse.
Manchin and Sinema, two Dems who were embraced by Republicans and had better approval ratings than RINOs, made this happen.
The results are no longer hypothetical. The weaponized IRS, targeting conservatives and the middle class, is the result.
There are lessons to learn here, but I’m not optimistic that they will be learned.