The Internal Revenue Service’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C.—a hulking New Deal-era monstrosity that’s ironically located on Constitution Avenue—has U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ oft-repeated words carved on the exterior facade: “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”
Yet there’s nothing particularly civilized about the IRS—the nation’s heavy-handed, incompetent and scandal-plagued tax-collection agency. The building’s columns and detailing echo the French Renaissance style, but behind the façade the IRS’ inspiration is more aligned with Robespierre given the terror its agents inflict on American citizens.
The IRS’ current authority goes well beyond our founding document’s simple language granting Congress the power to levy taxes on behalf of the common defense and the nation’s general welfare. The agency already has 80,000 employees and an enforcement budget larger than the general-fund budgets of a dozen U.S. states.
In its zeal to wrangle more change out of American taxpayers’ and businesses’ pockets, the Biden administration wants to beef up that budget and its auditing staff. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) and Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.), the supposed moderate, recently hammered out a deal to pass the oddly named Inflation Reduction Act.
Expecting a $739-billion spending bill to reduce inflation is like expecting a tanker of gasoline to douse a fire, but that’s the least of our problems. The measure proposes to provide an additional $80 billion to the IRS—boosting its budget six times and doubling the number of federal revenue officers.
As The Wall Street Journal noted, “The bill earmarks $45.6 billion for ‘enforcement,’ including ‘litigation,’ ‘criminal investigations,’ ‘investigative technology, ‘digital asset monitoring’ and a new fleet of tax-collector cars.” This cash infusion is so obscene the IRS will struggle to spend it all—but ultimately it means 80,000 new IRS officials will be breathing down our necks.