Rick Scott overstates potential uptick in IRS hiring

President Joe Biden signed into law a major legislative package that includes many of his policy priorities. One particular provision draws the ire of Republicans — the Internal Revenue Service’s hiring funding.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., discouraged job seekers from applying for IRS positions in an “open letter” posted on his LinkedIn account. Scott, who called himself the “governor of jobs” for two terms in Florida, said those IRS jobs would not survive a Republican takeover of Congress.

Scott asserted that Congressional funding would make the IRS larger than several other prominent government agencies.

“As you may have heard, Democrats in Congress recently passed a bill, soon to be signed into law by President Joe Biden, that provides $80 BILLION in additional money to taxpayers and dramatically increases staff from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by adding approximately 87,000 new officers,” Scott said. “This massive expansion of the IRS will make it bigger than (the) Pentagon, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of State combined.”

Other Republicans echoed that assertion, with a slight difference. Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the IRS’ 87,000 agents would make the agency bigger than the Pentagon, State Department, FBI and border patrol reunited. (Border Patrol is part of the larger agency, CBP.)

Scott and DeSantis’ teams referred PolitiFact to an Aug. 6 report from the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative political news site.

“If the Democrats are successful, one of the most hated federal agencies – the Internal Revenue Service – will employ more bureaucrats than the Pentagon, State Department, FBI and Border Patrol combined,” the article said. “That would make the IRS one of the largest federal agencies.”

There is no doubt that the injection of funds made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act will expand the IRS, which has seen years of funding cuts and workforce losses. But PolitiFact reviewed the best numbers immediately available and found that Scott’s claim exaggerated how much IRS staff would grow with allocated funding compared to other agencies.

The figure of 87,000 new hires comes from a 2021 report and is not set in stone

Many Republicans have expressed outrage over the IRS hiring 87,000 new employees. But where does this number come from? Answer: a year-old report.

In May 2021, the Treasury Department told Congress that with $80 billion in additional funding over the next decade, it could add 86,852 new full-time equivalent positions, also known as FTEs. In total, this makes 87,000 new employees.

This report does not necessarily show how the IRS plans to use the fresh money today. The Treasury Department says it will take several months to decide how to spend the money.

Scott’s agency numbers don’t match

To fairly compare the headcount mentioned by Scott to the growth of the IRS, we researched each agency’s “full-time equivalent” positions. Customs and Border Protection and the FBI list this information in their budget requests to Congress.

Scott also included the Pentagon and the State Department in his list. The Pentagon is the headquarters of the Department of Defense, but we could not immediately locate its employment figures in terms of FTEs. The Department of State lists positions by bureau and agency, and we couldn’t find a department-wide FTE figure.

Comparing a department like the IRS with a group of agencies, departments, and offices is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. But we used the numbers available to best assess the accuracy of the claim.

Here is a breakdown of each organization’s workforce using available numbers:

The workforce of the Pentagon, State Department, FBI, and Customs and Border Protection combined is nearly 199,000. That’s about 34,000 more positions than the IRS would have if it added 87,000 new employees at once and none of its 78,000 current employees left.

But that’s not how the funding will work.

Congressional funding and IRS hiring would be additional

The Cut Inflation Act will provide nearly $80 billion in funding to the IRS over the next decade, with more than half of the money earmarked for increased tax enforcement. Biden signed the bill on August 16.

The money allows the IRS to hire up to 87,000 full-time employees, but staff increases are expected to be phased through 2031. In its 2021 report, the Treasury Department said the IRS would hire approximately 5,000 new employees in the first year and then aim to gradually increase the number of new hires each consecutive year.

It comes as about 50,000 employees are expected to retire or leave the IRS over the next six years, according to Natasha Sarin, Treasury Department adviser for tax policy and enforcement.

Additionally, the Treasury Department’s plan does not say that all hires would be for auditor or other tax enforcement positions. Rather, the funding should be used to cover several IRS priorities, including “hiring new law enforcement personnel, upgrading outdated information technology, and investing in a service to significant taxpayers,” according to the Treasury Department.

Tony Reardon, national president of the National Union of Treasury Employees, told PolitiFact that due to expected departures from the agency, “the net gain in employees after 10 years would be significantly lower at 86,852.”

In recent years, the IRS has experienced a decline in budget and staff. Congressional appropriations, adjusted for inflation, fell about 20% between 2010 and 2018, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Due to budget cuts, the agency’s workforce fell by 22% during the same period. Over the past two years, the number of employees has increased slightly, but the agency’s roughly 78,000 employees in 2021 are still 18% below its 2011 workforce of around 94,700.

Our decision

Scott claimed that with the addition of 87,000 new agents, the IRS will be “bigger than the Pentagon, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of State combined.”

The Inflation Reduction Act will provide funding that will allow the IRS to significantly bolster its workforce, but how that will play out is not set in stone. The best numbers available suggest it might not be as large as Scott’s claim suggests.

The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it mostly wrong.

Writer Yacob Reyes contributed to this report.

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