As President Biden’s $1.75 trillion spending bill advances to the Senate, Republicans are issuing dire warnings about an aggressive IRS tax enforcement proposal that will be a key factor in determining whether the expansive legislation’s costs are fully covered.
The White House asserts that a revitalized IRS crackdown on tax evasion, especially among the wealthiest Americans, will generate $400 billion in revenue through 2031, more than any other "pay-for" included in the spending bill. The Congressional Budget Office determined the proposal would generate about $127 billion in revenue, raising doubt about the Biden administration’s claim.
Republicans say an expanded IRS will target lower- and middle-income families, not just the wealthy, raising money through debilitating audits for a slate of programs that most Americans do not support. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy leaned into that argument during an eight-hour floor speech in which he made a final, unsuccessful case that the bill should be voted down.
"Make no mistake, under this provision, every single American is a target in the eyes of the IRS," McCarthy said on the House floor. "You're guilty until proven innocent. That alone is enough to defeat this bill."
Biden and other Democratic leaders assert the increased IRS tax enforcement will ensure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share in taxes following years of waning scrutiny. A White House fact sheet on the spending bill declares the "additional enforcement resources will be focused on pursuing those with the highest incomes; not Americans with income less than $400,000."
The plan included in the spending bill earmarks nearly $79 billion toward bolstered tax enforcement efforts. Proponents say the funds will allow the government to hire more IRS agents, conduct more audits, improve taxpayer support services and modernize outdated technology.
In a Sept. 16 speech, Biden said the current "tax gap," or the difference between taxes owed and what is collected, was proof the current system was not an "even playing field."
"My plan would help solve that. It would give the IRS the resources it needs to keep up with the lawyers and accountants of the super-wealthy," Biden said.
But Republicans say the plan is unnecessarily invasive and most harmful to families and small businesses.
"The IRS will double in size," Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., said during a Republican roundtable last month. "It will be more involved in the day-to-day lives of every American. And the result will be an invasion of privacy and the heavy hand of the government squeezing out smaller, more local businesses."
On the eve of the House vote on the spending bill, McCarthy circulated a memo from Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee. The memo warned that the IRS proposal would double the rate of audits, with nearly half impacting families earning less than $75,000.
The memo was based in part on a past analysis conducted by the CBO, which determined the proposal would "return audit rates to the levels of about 10 years ago; the rate would rise for all taxpayers, but higher-income taxpayers would face the largest increase."
"Even the top congressional scorekeeper finds that Democrats’ dangerous $80 billion expansion of the IRS more than doubles Americans’ chances of being audited," Ways & Means Ranking Member Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said in a statement. "As so-called ‘moderates’ move towards passing this bill, they need to know that farmers, families and small businesses will be the true targets of intensified auditing."
Despite GOP objections, the House passed Biden’s spending bill in a party-line vote on Friday following months of negotiations. The bill passed despite the CBO’s determination that it was not fully paid for by offsets.
The bill now proceeds to the Senate. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a key moderate holdout, has previously warned he would not support legislation that adds to the federal deficit.