By Rep. Jason Smith
There is probably no acronym in the English language that provokes more fear for the average American taxpayer than the initials I-R-S. In fact, polling recently showed a whopping 65 percent of Americans believe the Internal Revenue Service is already too powerful. But, for President Joe Biden, the IRS is the key to jumpstarting his radical, progressive agenda.
As the Republican Leader of the House Budget Committee, I have spent a great deal of time pouring over the President’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget proposal. Part of his massive spending plan is to permanently expand the IRS to a size never before seen in the history of our country. Mr. Biden’s budget would double the size of the agency, handing them an additional $80 billion to hire 87,000 new agents with one goal in mind: Target American taxpayers.
This expansion would raise the agency’s staffing levels 68% higher than its peak under the Obama Administration, which famously oversaw one of the worst IRS scandals in American history. The federal government still has not earned back the trust it lost during that time for many Americans.
Despite attempts to blame a few bad apples, the Obama-Biden IRS had a clear, systemic bias against conservative Americans and went to great lengths to target groups that held conservative points of view.
They developed a “Be On the Look Out” list for nonprofit applications, which included words like “Tea Party” and “Patriots” and organizations educating on government spending, taxes, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Between 2010 and 2014, 66% of applications flagged for review were “conservative” groups, while just 19 percent were “liberal” organizations. Overall, the Obama-Biden IRS approved just one conservative group’s non-profit status over a three-year period.
As the scandal started to unravel, the IRS tried to cover up what happened and even destroyed evidence. In April 2013, a month before the IRS admitted to targeting conservative groups, Lois Lerner – the then director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Unit in charge of reviewing applications for tax-exempt status – advised her colleagues to be careful about what they said in emails. That same day she asked colleagues if their internal instant messaging system was archived, and when told it was not archived, responded, “Perfect.”
In May 2013, after President Barack Obama promised cooperation from his Administration, Lerner appeared before Congress and refused to cooperate, pleading the Fifth. That same day the IRS issued a non-destruct order to IRS personnel – two years after Congress began asking questions. And yet, on March 4, 2014, 422 backup tapes containing up to 24,000 of Ms. Lerner’s emails were destroyed by the IRS at a West Virginia facility that was officially known as the “Media Management Midnight Unit.”
While Congress and the public were assured that this scandal would be investigated, the reality was that the IRS was destroying evidence behind closed doors. Eventually, the case was referred to the Obama-Biden Department of Justice for prosecution, but despite the obfuscation by officials, no charges were brought against a single IRS employee. In short, Americans had been targeted by their own government, their constitutional rights violated, and no one was held responsible.
The 19th-century English politician Lord Acton famously wrote: “absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” When we look at the immense power President Obama gave his IRS and the massive expansion proposed by President Biden, it should come as no surprise that citizens are worried.
Arming agents with a mandate from the president to go after taxpayers, with a budget $80 billion larger than before, will mean more audits, more paperwork, and more litigation for main street businesses and Americans who are simply trying to make ends meet and give their families a better future.
Another famous politician, the late President Ronald Reagan, once said that “Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the Democrats believe every day is April 15th.” Under the budget proposed by President Biden, for too many Americans, every day will indeed feel like Tax Day.
Rep. Jason Smith is an American businessman and U.S. Representative serving Missouri’s 8th congressional district, since 2013. Rep. Smith is the Ranking Member on the House Budget Committee and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Read the op-ed here.