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Fact Check-The IRS is not hiring thousands of armed agents, job ads show opening for specialized unit

Social media users are claiming that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is hiring 87,000 new armed IRS agents. This claim is false. The job listing being shared is for IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agents, and currently only about 2,100 special agents carry firearms, according to IRS’s Criminal Investigation (CI) department.

The IRS CI is a law enforcement agency within the IRS.

Examples can be seen (here) and (here).

The text in one post reads: “The IRS is hiring! The government wants its IRS agents armed and its citizens disarmed. We’ll let everyone just marinate on that for a second.” Another post reads: “What would the founders have to say about 87,000 armed IRS agents?”

The posts refer to the IRS hiring 87,000 new workers, a number which likely stems from a May 2021 report by the Department of Treasury  (here), which estimated that IRS could hire 86,852 employees with almost $80 million more funding by 2031. 

Reuters debunked the claim that the Inflation Reduction Act would lead to the IRS hiring 87,000 new agents specifically to target low- and middle-income Americans (here). The IRS and U.S. Department of Treasury have said that these positions are for a range of roles, and it would not proportionally increase audits on those making under $400,000.

Some posts share a screenshot of an IRS job listing for an IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent (here). Some point out that the listing reads: “Carry a firearm and be willing to use deadly force, if necessary” under “major duties” of the role.

The listing was updated sometime on Aug. 11, 2022 to remove this line (older version) (here), (updated) (here). The IRS told Reuters the language “was mistakenly taken down” after “continued misstatements and inaccuracies about IRS employees carrying weapons.”

Justin T. Cole, Director at the Office of Communication at IRS Criminal Investigation, told Reuters via email that special agents investigate criminal tax violations and other financial crimes such as money laundering, bank secrecy, national security and national defense matters.

“There are about 3,000 employees in CI, 2,100 of which are special agents and the remaining professional staff,” Cole said. “Only special agents carry firearms.” For context, there were 81,600 total IRS employees in fiscal year 2021 (here).

Cole said that a majority of IRS’s tax administration is done by civilian auditors and revenue collectors and that in fiscal year 2021, the efforts of the criminal investigation unit resulted in the identification of more than $10 billion in tax fraud and other financial crimes.

“In terms of hiring, CI hopes to be able to hire 300-350 Special Agents during the course of this entire fiscal year – and we lose between 150-175 agents every year to retirement and attrition,” Cole said. “So even 350 agents would only net us a gain of 150-175 agents over the course of an entire year.”

The IRS CI is also not a new IRS branch created with the budget from the Inflation Reduction Act. It has been around since 1919, originally called the Intelligence Unit, and modeled after the role of Post Office Inspectors (here). Examples of high profile cases can be seen (here).

VERDICT

False. The Internal Revenue Service will not be hiring 87,000 armed agents. Job adverts posted on social media are for special agents in the IRS’s Criminal Investigation unit. There are currently about 2,100 special agents in this unit, and there were 81,600 total IRS employees in fiscal year 2021.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  .         

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