One of the key elements of President Biden’s failed Build Back Better plan was to spend $80 billion over the next ten years on the Internal Revenue Service: a sum that would have nearly doubled the agency’s annual budget. While that plan eventually died, the goal to significantly beef up the IRS hasn’t died with it.
In 2023 the agency will spend about $14.1 billion on all functions. Of that, just $3.684 billion will be dedicated to taxpayer services, while $6.274 billion will be spent on enforcement. That includes audits, investigations, and collection actions. The agency will hire another 3,800 enforcement officers — auditors, in particular — which nears a 10 percent increase from 2021.
The Treasury Department claims that the increase in “robust” enforcement activity will not affect anyone earning less than $400,000 per year.
But how likely is this? Whatever Treasury may say, it is not unreasonable to suspect that a significant proportion of this extra enforcement will target small-business owners and low-income taxpayers.
How can this be? Isn’t it the wealthiest who are doing the cheating? That’s certainly what the IRS would have you believe; if it were true, the thinking goes, the broader public would likely be more willing to get on board with the idea of turning the dogs loose on the richest 1 percent who apparently aren’t paying their “fair share.”
The truth, however, is that small-business owners and self-employed people will always be key targets of IRS enforcement, enhanced or otherwise. That is because the IRS believes that small-business owners cheat on their taxes — virtually across the board. In the IRS’s opinion, small businesses are the primary contributors to the so-called tax gap: the estimated difference between the tax legally owed and what is actually paid. Estimates place that figure at about $390 billion annually.
In September 2019, the IRS released a research report in which it claimed that almost half of the tax gap is attributable to self-employed people and small corporations, even though they account for about only 15 percent of all tax returns filed. Though the report was drafted under the Trump administration, this remains the IRS’s philosophy, because it was written by the career bureaucrats who populate federal-government agencies and rarely (if ever) change with administrations. Proof of this lies in a September 2021 article written by the Treasury Department’s Natasha Sarin.
Story continues at: Targeted by the IRS?