Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) postured as a protector of small businesses and middle-class families from the IRS but he was really advocating protections for the very wealthy.
Barrasso visited Fox’s Your World show yesterday to talk about a confirmation hearing for IRS commissioner nominee Danny Werfel.
“Senator, did you get the answers you want?” host Neil Cavuto asked.
BARRASSO: Not at all Neil. The Internal Revenue Service is the most powerful and least-accountable agency in our government, and the Democrats have just given them another $80 billion as part of their reckless tax and spending bill, and so much of that money is going to be used to hire an army of agents, they’re talking about 87,000 new IRS agents, auditors. Very little of the money is going to go for things like the phone help line. …
They’re coming after you, they’re coming after small business owners, they’re coming after middle class families, and then today, Joe Biden said they’re not going to come after anyone making under $400,000 a year. Don’t be deceived. The new reports are they’re going after tips for waiters and waitresses who have an average income of only $29,000.
FACT CHECK: Let us try to enumerate Barrasso’s exaggerations, falsehoods and distortions here.
1. The IRS is not hiring 87,000 new auditors. As CNN explains, the 87,000 figure refers to all employees, not only auditors. Many of the new hires will be replacing staff that the IRS has already lost or is expected to lose in the coming years. “Last year, then-IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig [a Trump appointee] told lawmakers that staffing has shrunk to 1970s levels and that the IRS would need to hire 52,000 people over the next six years just to maintain current staffing levels to replace those who retire or otherwise leave,” CNN reported.
2. Nearly $8 billion is going to benefit taxpayers, according to CNN. $4.8 billion can be used to modernize customer service technology, such as a callback service and about $3 billion is for taxpayer assistance, filing and account services. That’s not “very little of the money,” as Barrasso asserted. 4,000 new customer service reps were already hired.
3. There is no plan to go after waiters and waitresses. PolitiFact, which rated the right-wing claim “mostly false,” summarized its conclusion as follows: “Tips are already subject to federal income taxes. But the IRS has proposed a new, voluntary tip program to replace existing programs of this type. It is only a proposal for now, and the IRS is seeking public comment for it.”
To his credit, Cavuto did push back somewhat. He said about the 87,000 IRS hires, “A lot of this is through attrition, and people retiring, it’s actually a much smaller number.”
Cavuto also asked Barrasso, “Are you concerned that the priorities for these agents, however many ultimately are added, will be to go after only lower income individuals, only waiters, that they won’t go after the well to do who might try to dodge the taxman?”
“They’re going after everyone,” Barrasso said, “My concern is to protect families, small businesses, and you know the first bill that passed the House of Representatives, straight party line vote, but as a Republican House, is that we’re not going to give the IRS this additional $70 billion that they want for this army of agents and auditors.” He concluded by calling it “a shakedown” of “all taxpayers.”
For extra right-wing poutrage, Barrasso called the IRS “woke and weaponized.’
If Barrasso were really looking out for small businesses and families, he’d be right on board with the IRS hires. For one thing, the new audits are to be targeted at those earning $400,000 a year and above, only. Second, the extra income would bring in about $100 billion in additional revenue for the U.S., thus helping to lower the deficit Republicans claim to care so much about (with a Democrat in the White House). That would help "protect and preserve" Social Security and Medicare, which Republicans claim they want to do.
More likely Barrasso is looking to help his wealthiest donors, constituents and cronies continue to get away without paying their fair share of taxes.
You can watch it below, from the February 15, 2023 Your World.