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House Republicans Go After IRS Agent Funding But Leave Technology Funds Alone Because Even the GOP Agrees IRS Call Wait Times Suck

old lady waiting on hold

This lady is going to be on hold for a long time, her phone isn’t even plugged in to the wall.

The GOP-led House voted 221-210 on Monday to eliminate almost 90 percent of $80 billion in new IRS funding under the Inflation Reduction Act, much of which is supposed to be used to fund the hiring of 87,000 new employees over the next ten years (a bit on how difficult it is going to be to find 87,000 IRS agents here) to replace the IRS’s aging workforce. No, there were never going to be 87,000 highly militarized IRS agents. As we wrote last year:

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said earlier this week the majority of new hires the IRS makes will be those who answer the phones, work on processing individual tax returns or go after high-end taxpayers or corporations who are avoiding their taxes. Less than 1% of new hires will be in the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) area, which currently has a total of about 2,100 special agents and is hiring about 300 more. Additionally, the gun thing is “absolutely false,” they don’t plan on strapping up all these new agents (because why would someone manning an IRS phone bank need a gun?); less than 3% of IRS employees carry weapons. Lastly, the plan for the Inflation Reduction Act funding — which will be spread over 10 years — will add employees over time to help the IRS modernize its ancient systems (and people). “[T]he IRS has one of the oldest workforces in government,” he wrote. “Staffing has been in a deep decline for many years. More than 50,000 employees will retire in the next few years, leaving the foundation of the tax system that the nation relies on at risk. We’ve been losing 10,000 employees a year.”

More than half of the 82,000 existing IRS employees are eligible for retirement over the next five years.

While Republicans continue to suggest that the IRS plans to hire tens of thousands of criminal agents and have vowed to stop it, interestingly the House is purposely leaving a small chunk of the Inflation Reduction Act funding alone: the couple billion set aside to reduce call-wait times via technology improvements.


It leaves untouched $3.2 billion for the improvement of taxpayer services and $4.8 billion for technology development aimed at improving customer service phone lines. Long call-wait times and poor communication between the agency and taxpayers has been a common grievance shared on both sides of the aisle.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) promised last year that defunding the newly beefed-up IRS would be a top priority for a Republican-controlled House and Monday’s vote reflects that. “On that very first day that we’re sworn in, you’ll see that it all changes. Because on our very first bill, we’re going to repeal 87,000 IRS agents. Our job is to work for you, not go after you,” McCarthy said at a September appearance in Pittsburgh.

It’s nice to see that all can agree that calling the IRS is an unacceptably torturous experience. And while it’s nice the GOP left technology improvements alone, it is unlikely that these improvements alone can reduce call wait times and poor communication. As pointed out above, a large number of the 87,000 “agents” the IRS wants to hire would not be CI agents, rather customer service agents assigned to man the phones.

It is unlikely that the GOP’s proposal will pass the Democrat-controlled Senate. Sorry, Kevin.