The attacks exaggerate the number of law enforcement officers the administration intends to hire and ignore promises from Democrats that they will focus on high earners.
The ads are designed to do two things, said Robert Blizzard, a Republican pollster at Public Opinion Strategies.
First, they aim to galvanize Republican voters who already tend to be wary of the IRS.
And it’s also a way to appeal to independents, Blizzard said, arguing that Democrats have had the wrong priorities — focusing on tax collection instead of things voters really care about like soaring prices.
“As the Democrats have controlled DC for two years, things have gotten much worse for Americans, and the government’s response is, ‘We’re hiring more IRS people,'” he said.
The campaign points out how, although Republicans have lambasted IRS funding for months, that doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from it. Many were quietly pleased with the increased budget, thinking it would give them plenty of campaign material.
The attacks also underscore how the fight for the IRS budget won’t end anytime soon, especially if Republicans win back the House or Senate.
The $80 billion, which is expected to be spent over the next decade, was intended to shore up the IRS after years of tight budgets and remove some of the uncertainty surrounding its funding. But on the contrary, it will likely raise the stakes for the agency’s budget, especially the part that still needs to be approved by Congress each year.
Democrats haven’t focused as much on IRS money in their election campaigns, though they mock Republican ads, saying the money is intended to improve customer service and crack down on wealthy tax cheats .
And Democrats who will be re-elected this year need not worry too much about ads, said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has studied the attacks.
She said they are primarily a way for Republicans to motivate their base.
Lake agrees Democrats are vulnerable to accusations that they haven’t focused enough on things like inflation, but says the IRS isn’t the right way to make that point to most people. .
“It’s something that some voters have doubts about, but it’s not the best example for it,” she said.
“When you say the IRS is going after the rich and the big corporations who have all these accountants and lobbyists to avoid taxes, they’re happy about that,” said Lake, president of Lake Research Partners.
The ads, sponsored by Republicans’ official campaign organizations as well as outside groups like the Senate Leadership Fund and the Club for Growth Action, distort Democrats’ plans in several ways.
They say the administration intends to hire an additional 87,000 officers, citing a Treasury Department report released early last year. But the administration later said many of those people would replace tens of thousands of IRS workers who will become eligible for retirement in the coming years.
Many of those people won’t be applying — the administration said it would use the money to hire 5,000 customer service representatives, though it didn’t say what all the other people would do.
And the administration also pledges not to raise audit rates for people earning less than $400,000.
At the same time, however, there are plenty of unanswered questions about his plans.
The IRS already receives about $13 billion each year from Congress to pay the salaries of its 80,000 employees, so it shouldn’t need the extra $80 billion to replace those retiring. The administration envisions the agency growing — its staff is a third smaller than it was 30 years ago — but it hasn’t specified how big it wants the department to eventually be. .
It’s also unclear how the agency will ensure audit rates don’t rise for average people, which could be tricky.
The Treasury Department, of which the IRS is a part, is working on a detailed spending plan for the money due in February.
The $80 billion was the least popular component of the climate, health and tax bill Democrats approved in August, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll.
Healthy majorities said they supported many of its provisions – 76% said they supported its cap on drug price increases while 66% said they liked the extended tax breaks on green energy for consumers.
In contrast, only 40% said they thought additional IRS funding was a good idea, with 46% opposed.
Yet most people said they do not fear being audited, with only 24% saying they were at least somewhat concerned about increased scrutiny from the IRS. (The chances of being audited are slim – the agency audited 0.25% of taxpayers in 2019).
After campaigning against IRS money, Republicans will be under pressure to do something if they return to power.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said last month that rescinding the $80 billion would be the first thing Republicans would do, though President Joe Biden would surely veto it.
The IRS will still depend on annual appropriations from Congress for a portion of its budget, which Republicans may instead target to try to counter the injection of funding from Democrats.
And they are already drawing up a long list of other proposals to sue the agency.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican in the House, and Senator. Susan Collins (R-Maine) want to withhold agency app money until it meets tough criteria for improving customer service.
Thune and fellow tax writer Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are also preparing legislation that would require the administration’s next plan for the money to be put to a vote in Congress. Others want to enshrine in law that audit rates will not increase for people under $400,000.
In the meantime, Democrats are trying to push through another funding boost for the agency, on top of the $80 billion, as they try to make up for meager budgets for much of the past decade. They want an 8% hike for 2023 as part of a sweeping “omnibus” spending plan lawmakers hope to pass before Christmas.
This would come on top of the 6% increase approved for 2022.