IRS Office, Internal Revenue Service
An IRS office. Photo credit: Alpha Photo / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The efforts of Republicans to portray unarmed IRS agents as jack-booted thugs became much more difficult Monday.

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As the agency that harasses billionaires and major corporations into paying their taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is very high on the list of the GOP’s stated enemies. However, since Republicans can’t exactly say that they don’t like the IRS because it makes rich people pay their fair share, they created the narrative of an army of jack-booted, tax-collecting thugs going after law-abiding patriots.

On Monday, that narrative took a major hit when IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel announced that the agency would no longer send its agents to the homes and businesses of regular Americans without advance notice.

The new policy, which reverses a decades-long practice, does not fit into the GOP portrayal of the IRS at all. If you follow the right-wing media or just about any Republican, you will almost certainly have come across the lie that the Biden administration wants to hire 87,000 new IRS agents to make the lives of ordinary US taxpayers miserable.

“We are taking a fresh look at how the IRS operates to better serve taxpayers and the nation, and making this change is a common-sense step,” Werfel stated. “Changing this long-standing procedure will increase confidence in our tax administration work and improve overall safety for taxpayers and IRS employees.”

That doesn’t sound at all like the IRS how it is portrayed on Fox News. In part, that’s because that fictionalized version of the tax-collecting agency doesn’t exist.

While the right would like Americans to think of IRS agents as heavily armed stormtroopers who kick in doors and drag people out of their homes, the agency’s field staff is usually unarmed. Only a small minority of IRS employees, those working on criminal investigations, are even authorized to carry weapons.

In fact, Werfel indicated that the change in policy is probably intended more for the protection of agents from gun-toting conservatives who have been programmed to hate the IRS than vice versa.

Tony Reardon, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), said as much on Monday.

“The safety of IRS employees is of paramount importance, and this decision will help protect those whose jobs have only grown more dangerous in recent years because of false, inflammatory rhetoric about the agency and its workforce,” he said.

Since none of this comports with the GOP’s anti-IRS narrative, Republicans were understandably confused after the announcement.

Some took credit for the change in policy but, once again, couldn’t keep themselves from lying about it.

“A win for Americans against government intimidation — the investigative work of [the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government] exposed this IRS practice,” tweeted Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC). “We’ll continue to expose crooked gov’t behavior wherever it appears.”

To reiterate, unannounced visits of unarmed agents was standard practice for decades, so the committee didn’t “expose” anything.

It is also unclear which “corrupt” behavior he is talking about. But, we suppose, he is not the first Republican to believe his own lies.

Others tried a different route. True to the ability of House Republicans to make any issue about the president’s wayward son, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) immediately brought up Hunter Biden.

“There’s little reason to cheer the IRS’s recent announcement that it is supposedly ‘ending’ unannounced visits by revenue officers — the agency has yet to provide a full explanation for why it used such disturbing tactics to show up on people’s doorstep and invade their privacy,” he said.

And that’s at least partially true. Certainly, Republicans have little reason to cheer about the IRS taking this issue off the table. As for why it “used such disturbing tactics,” a good place to start looking would be the agency’s mission to find tax cheats.

In any case, since that argument was a bit shaky, Smith soon turned to firmer ground: the “politicization” of the government and Hunter Biden.

“Americans remain concerned about the agency’s political targeting and favoritism, regardless of whether they announce their visits or not,” he added. “Tax enforcement that goes after families and small businesses, but tips off President Biden’s family, sounds like it has bigger problems in how it investigates tax crimes.”

There is no telling what Republicans would even be talking about without the president’s son. It would be truly hilarious if he were sent to prison for his tax crimes because then the GOP would have no issue to campaign on next year.

Here’s hoping that happens.


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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