The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will be reviewing safety and security measures in response to what IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig calls “an abundance of misinformation and false social media postings, some of them with threats directed at the IRS and its employees.”
In a staff memo released on Tuesday, he said of the agency’s 600 office locations nationwide, “We are conducting a comprehensive review of existing safety and security measures.”
“This includes conducting risk assessments,” he said, by monitoring perimeter security, designations of restricted areas, exterior lighting, security around entrances of facilities, and other measures.
Rettig in his email asked the IRS’s current 78,600 employees to increase their safety awareness and added, “if you see something, say something.” Employees include clerical workers, customer service representatives, enforcement officials, and others.
“For me this is personal,” he wrote in the staff memo on Aug. 23. “I’ll continue to make every effort to dispel any lingering misperceptions about our work. And I will continue to advocate for your safety in every venue where I have an audience.”
In the memo, Rettig did not identify what threats specifically were made to the agency or staff.
Rettig is a former Beverly Hills, California, tax attorney who was appointed by former President Donald Trump to lead the IRS, and was retained by President Joe Biden. His term at the IRS is set to end in November.
New Funds for IRS Via Inflation Reduction Act
The announcement to review safety measures at the IRS’s 600 facilities comes after Biden on Aug. 16 signed into law the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a spending package, which, in part, provides nearly $80 billion in funding into the tax agency over the next 10 years.
The funding is intended to ramp up tax enforcement and reduce high-end tax evasion. Earlier this month, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a letter to Rettig saying the funding provided to the IRS under the legislation will “improve taxpayer service, modernize outdated technological infrastructure, and increase equity in the tax system by enforcing the tax laws against those high-earners, large corporations, and complex partnerships who today do not pay what they owe,” according to a statement from the Treasury on Aug. 10.
Yellen said in a statement on Aug. 12 that the spending package “takes a critical step toward correcting our two-tiered tax system to ensure large corporations and high-income earners cannot avoid paying the taxes they owe.”
“Reversing the long-term deterioration in IRS funding and will help Treasury fulfill its commitment to closing the tax gap, restoring fairness to the tax code, and providing compliant taxpayers with the IRS support they deserve,” she said.
Such efforts are anticipated to bring in some $124 billion in tax revenue over the next decade, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (pdf).
Union President Disputes Rhetoric About ‘Army’ of IRS Agents
Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), told The Associated Press that members have been vocal about their fears and worries about their safety. The NTEU represents about 70,000 frontline IRS employees in 600 worksites across the country.
“IRS employees are certainly very hard working and honest, they do the business of funding the government. They’re saying they don’t deserve to be treated as the enemy of the government,” he said, adding, “The rhetoric we’re hearing now is dangerous … It’s putting these patriotic Americans at risk.”
The Biden administration has estimated the IRS needs to hire about 86,000 new employees over time, and at least 50,000 of them would replace those who are expected to retire or leave the agency in the next six years.
Reardon previously disputed claims that the new infusion of IRS funding would be used to form an army of agents to target law-abiding taxpayers.
He said in a statement on Aug. 12: “The fact is that the IRS needs to hire across the board. That includes employees to process tax returns, experts in technology, human resource professionals and others who support the mission of the agency.
“Additionally, the agency expects to lose 52,000 employees in the next six years to attrition and retirements and this funding will help replace departing workers. I urge all Americans to remember that IRS employees are public servants who take an oath to the constitution, and they perform their duties with professionalism and integrity.”
Only some IRS employees who work on criminal investigations carry firearms as part of their work. Agents who carry weapons are from a division of the IRS called “criminal investigation,” and focus on issues such as seizing illicit cryptocurrency and Russian oligarchs’ assets, Natasha Sarin, the Treasury Department’s counselor for tax policy and implementation, previously told AP.
According to agency documents, there were just more than 2,000 such special agents working at the IRS in 2021. The branch will receive some money from the Inflation Reduction Act, but most of the funding will go toward other areas, according to Sarin. The spending does not designate money specifically for a large number of armed IRS employees.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times