One of their first priorities? Abolishing the Internal Revenue Service.
Except not really.
Fox News reported Tuesday that the House is set to vote on a bill that would abolish both the IRS and the national income tax. This is what’s known as the “Fair Tax,” a proposal that’s been around since the early 2000s to replace the currently constituted federal income tax.
According to the Fox News report, the bill will get a vote as part of a deal made between McCarthy and the House Freedom Caucus, during McCarthy’s quest to get elected.
Such a dramatic overhaul of the tax code is not going to become law in this Congress, especially not with the Senate and White House in Democratic hands.
“Cosponsoring this Georgia-made legislation was my first act as a Member of Congress and is, fittingly, the first bill I am introducing in the 118th Congress,” Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) said in a press release this week.
“Instead of adding 87,000 new agents to weaponize the IRS against small business owners and middle America, this bill will eliminate the need for the department entirely by simplifying the tax code with provisions that work for the American people and encourage growth and innovation. Armed, unelected bureaucrats should not have more power over your paycheck than you do,” he added.
While the Fair Tax appears to be a non-starter, the House has passed a separate bill that would undo the billions in new funding for the IRS that was passed in 2022 as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. This is described as the Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act.
This legislation also will not pass in the current Congress, with Biden promising a veto if it did.
But it did get through the House. And if the Republican House engages in a budget standoff with the White House later this year, as it is likely will, there’s a good chance the IRS funding will be a sticking point.
The IRS and That 87,000 New Agents Claim
The idea that the funding passed last year is meant to hire “87,000 new IRS agents” is misleading, at best.
As pointed out this week by a Washington Post fact check, the IRS has been underfunded and understaffed for years, a situation made much worse by the pandemic.
The new funding, included in the Inflation Reduction Act last year after it was part of the failed Build Back Better spending package the year before, was meant to ease that understaffing.
The “87,000” figure comes from a Treasury Department report from last year, which stated that the desired amount of funding would allow the agency to hire 87,000 people over a decade-long period. But not all of those new hires would be agents; many would be other staffers who are not IRS agents.
The Biden Administration has not said how that funding would be allocated, but it’s clear that there have not been 87,000 new IRS agents hired since last year. Much less “87,000 armed IRS agents,” as some versions of the theory have put it.
“The IRS has about 79,000 employees, down from about 95,000 in fiscal year 2012. But the new hiring does not mean the agency’s staff will double, as some Republicans claimed during debate on the legislation,” the Washington Post said. “The Congressional Budget Office assumes, absent additional funding, IRS staffing would keep falling to about 60,000 in 10 years, so the funding would allow a doubling from that base, or an increase of 50 percent from today’s levels.”
Furthermore, the IRS has said that so many employees are expected to retire in the coming years, that much hiring will need to be done just to make up for that.
“The hiring is over a decade, much of it replaces pending retirees, and many of the new employees are not agents. The targets of increased scrutiny are the wealthy, not the middle class. Fact check after fact check has demonstrated this. But politicians such as McCarthy and Scalise keep saying it — and then it gets repeated across social media. Here’s the rundown of some of the other fact checks,” the Post added.
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.