Rick Scott overstates potential hiring surge at IRS

President Joe Biden signed into law a major legislative package that includes many of his policy priorities. One provision in particular is drawing the ire of Republicans: funding the hiring of the Internal Revenue Service.

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

Scott claimed 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 by President Joe Biden, that provides $80 billion in additional taxpayer money and dramatically grows the Internal Revenue Service’s workforce Service (IRS) adding approximately 87,000 new agents,” Scott said. “This massive expansion of the IRS will make it larger than (the) Pentagon, the Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Protection and the State Department combined.”

Other Republicans have echoed that claim, with a slight difference. Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the 87,000 IRS agents would make the agency larger than the Pentagon, State Department, FBI and Border Patrol combined. (The Border Patrol is part of the larger agency, Customs and Border Protection.)

Equipment for Scott and DeSantis referred PolitiFact to one August 6 report from the Washington Free Beacona conservative political news website.

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

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

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

Many Republicans have expressed outrage over the IRS hiring 87,000 new employees. But where does this number come from? Answer: One year 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. Rounded off, that’s 87,000 new employees.

This report does not necessarily show how the IRS plans to use new money today. The Department of Finance says it will several months before deciding how to spend the money.

Scott’s agency counts don’t add up

To fairly compare the workforce mentioned by Scott to the growth of the IRS, we looked up the “full-time equivalent” positions for each agency. Customs and Border Protection and the FBI include this information in their budget requests to Congress.

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Scott also included the Pentagon and the State Department on his list. The Pentagon is home to the Department of Defense, but we were unable to immediately locate its employment figures in terms of FTE. The State Department lists job positions by office and agency, and we were unable to find an FTE figure for the entire department.

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

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

In 2022, Customs and Border Protection received funding for 58,475 full-time equivalent positions. The F.B.I by 2022 it received funding for 36,172 full-time equivalent posts.The Department of Defense it has 785,200 full-time equivalent civilian positions. The pentagon holds 27,000 of these positions.The Department of State number 77,227 employees in general (but it is unclear whether these are full-time equivalent positions).

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

But that’s not how the funding will work.

Congressional funding and IRS contracting would be incremental

The Inflation reduction law will provide nearly $80 billion in funding to the IRS over the next decade, with more than half of the money going toward increased tax enforcement. Biden signed the bill into law on August 16.

Related: The Democrats’ health and climate bill fulfills some of Biden’s promises, but not others

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

This comes as an estimate 50,000 employees are expected to retire or leave the IRS over the next six years, according to Natasha Sarinadvisor for fiscal policy and implementation of the Department of Finance.

Also, the Treasury Department’s plan does not say that all hiring would be for auditors or other tax positions. Rather, the funding is expected to be used to cover several IRS priorities, including “hiring new specialized enforcement staff, modernizing aging information technology, and investing in meaningful service for taxpayers.” according to the Department of Finance.

Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, told PolitiFact that because of the agency’s projected departures, “the net employee gain after 10 years would be significantly less than 86,852.”

Over the past few years, the IRS has seen its budget and staff shrink. Congressional appropriations, when adjusted for inflation, declined about 20% between 2010 and 2018, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Due to budget cuts, the agency’s workforce he fell 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 remains 18 percent below its 2011 staffing level of about 94,700.

Our verdict

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

The Inflation Reduction Act will provide funding that will allow the IRS to significantly strengthen its workforce, but it is unclear how this will play out. The best available figures suggest that it would 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 false.

Writer Yacob Reyes contributed to this report.

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