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IRS chief says online threats have prompted security review, agency disputes GOP allegations

The Internal Revenue Service is reviewing its security systems and taking steps to protect its employees after the agency has said it received threats online following attacks from Republicans over plans to increase the IRS workforce.

An internal memo reported by ABC News reveals that IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig has ordered risk assessments for each of the agency’s 600 facilities to identify potential security vulnerabilities.

“This includes conducting risk assessments based on data-driven decisions given the current environment and monitoring perimeter security, designations of restricted areas, exterior lighting, security around entrances to our facilities and other various protections,” Rettig wrote to employees Tuesday.

“We also monitor threat intelligence and have increased engagement with TIGTA, Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement officials so we’re ready to implement additional countermeasures and notifications to employees if circumstances warrant,” Rettig wrote.

Congress appropriated $78 billion in new future funding for the IRS over the next 10 years as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, a watered-down version of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan. The legislation included a new 15% minimum tax on corporate profits, and the Biden administration has said the additional IRS funding is for enforcement to make sure the wealthy are paying taxes.

However, Republicans have claimed the IRS will use the funding to hire 87,000 new agents, which will then be used to audit the middle class and the Biden administration’s political opponents.

“Do you make $75,000 or less?” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted. “Democrats’ new army of 87,000 IRS agents will be coming for you—with 710,000 new audits for Americans who earn less than $75k.”

Some Republicans have linked potential IRS enforcement to the FBI raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home on Aug. 8, echoing Trump’s accusations that the Biden administration has “weaponized” law enforcement against conservatives.

“Think about it: If the left will weaponize the FBI to raid President Trump’s personal residence, they will surely weaponize the IRS’s new 87,000 agents, many of whom will be trained in the use of deadly force, to go after any American citizen,” Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) said on the House floor earlier this month.

Many of these concerns are linked to the Obama-era IRS targeting scandal, in which the agency was accused of targeting conservative nonprofit groups based on their political beliefs.

The Biden administration has denied these allegations. Officials told ABC News the 87,000 new agents claim comes from a year-old report that described what the agency could do with nearly $80 billion in new funding from Biden’s American Families Plan. A Department of the Treasury official said most of those new hires would not be IRS agents and wouldn’t be new positions.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has also disputed claims the IRS will audit middle-class Americans. In a letter to Rettig, Yellen said the agency intends to hire auditors who will enforce tax laws against wealthy corporations and high-income Americans. About 50,000 of the new IRS hires will replace retiring employees, meaning the agency will add only 20,000 – 30,000 workers, according to Yellen.

“New staff will be hired to improve taxpayer services and experienced auditors who can take on corporate and high-end tax evaders, without increasing audit rates relative to historical norms for people earning under $400,000 each year,” a Treasury Department spokeswoman said last week.

Rettig told the Washington Post in an interview Wednesday that the rhetoric from Republican lawmakers is harmful and has incited online threats made against IRS agents.

“We see what’s out there in terms of social media. Our workforce is concerned about their safety,” Rettig said. “The comments being made are extremely disrespectful to the agency, to the employees and to the country.”