“Our very first bill will repeal the funding for 87,000 new IRS agents.”

— House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), in remarks on the floor, Jan. 7

“THIS WEEK—The House Republican Majority will move to pass legislation to:

-Defund the 87,000 new IRS agents.

— House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), in a tweet, Jan. 8

Republicans took charge of the House of Representatives this week — and put forward as their first act a bill that is based on a repeatedly debunked falsehood.

We call these “zombie claims” because they keep rising from the dead no matter how often they have been fact-checked. But we haven’t before witnessed such a roundly criticized claim set the agenda for a new Congress. On Monday night, on a party-line vote of 221-210, the House approved a bill stripping $71 billion in funding from the Internal Revenue Service. (It has no chance of passage in the Senate, and President Biden has promised a veto.)

The Facts

Back in August, we first criticized what McCarthy called “the Democrats’ new army of 87,000 IRS agents,” saying the figure was wildly exaggerated.

The figure had been plucked from a Treasury report released in May 2021 about how the administration hoped to address the “tax gap” — the difference between what is owed to the government and what is actually paid. That difference was thought to be at least $381 billion a year, with most of it due to underreporting of income, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

One major problem is that the IRS does not have enough experienced revenue agents who can tackle complex tax returns. In a May report last year, the Government Accountability Office said audit rates have declined dramatically for the super rich. In 2010, more than 21 percent of tax returns reporting more than $10 million in income were audited — and that dropped to 3.9 percent by 2019, the GAO said.


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