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EJ ANTONI: Turns Out The IRS Is After You, After All

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E.J. Antoni Contributor
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When it was first revealed that the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” provided funding for 87,000 new IRS agents, Biden administration officials told Americans not to worry. They promised at every turn that these agents would only be set upon those earning over $400,000 a year.

But the Act has done nothing to reduce inflation, so it’s hardly surprisingly to learn now that an army of IRS agents has the middle class in its crosshairs.

In a new report, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration admitted that the Treasury would not be able to accurately distinguish whether many taxpayers are above or below President Joe Biden’s $400,000 threshold. When the Inspector General recommended addressing this shortcoming, the IRS declined to do so, claiming it needs to have the “agility” to target anyone.

In fact, the IRS went so far as to reject any threshold for defining “high-income taxpayers,” calling such figures “static and overly prescriptive.” (RELATED: CRAPO: Democrats Are Supercharging The IRS — American Taxpayers Deserve Better)

That’s a fancy way of saying that the opponents of the Inflation Reduction Act were right all along: an army of IRS agents is coming for the middle class. This directly violates President Joe Biden’s oft-repeated pledge that he would not raise taxes, nor increase audits, on those earning less than $400,000 a year.

That broken promise comes as no surprise. Earlier this year, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was cornered into admitting that 90 percent of new audits would affect those earning less than $400,000. The new IG report confirms what Yellen was forced under oath to admit, and what many in Congress knew when they voted for the Inflation Reduction Act.

Countless middle-class Americans will now live in fear of an audit from Ms. Yellen’s henchmen, despite the hollow assurances of Mr. Biden. And the hackneyed line from the left that only tax cheats should be fearful of an audit is preposterous. The tax code is so startlingly large and complex, that no one person understands the entirety of it.

When Money magazine gave a family’s finances to 46 professional tax preparers, they received back 46 different tax returns. Yet that’s the predictable result of a tax code 4.1 million words in length. That’s longer than the Bible, War and Peace, the complete works of Shakespeare, and the entire Harry Potter series—combined.

Even those with the best of intentions are highly likely to make mistakes on their taxes because the system is obscenely complex. That’s why Americans spend 6.5 billion manhours and $364 billion annually trying to comply with tax law. Yet countless mistakes are still made.

The IRS accused a friend of mine of making one such mistake and handed him a bill for tens of thousands of dollars in allegedly unpaid taxes, interest, and fines. He took this information to his tax accountant, who informed my friend that he was 100 percent in the right and the IRS agents were wrong. But his tax attorney said to just pay the bill because it would be less expensive than pursuing litigation. (RELATED: EJ ANTONI: There’s No Economic Fact Too Big For Democrats To Ignore)

On principle, my friend decided to take the IRS to court, and he won. In fact, the IRS owed him a small refund, but the fight had cost him over $100,000. Virtually no Americans have that kind of money lying around to fight the IRS. This leaves the middle class at a severe disadvantage because they cannot match the hordes of accountants and attorneys at the beck and call of the Biden administration.

The next couple of years will likely be perilous for the middle class. Even keeping track of all your receipts might now be enough to keep the auditors satisfied. Absent your own army of tax professions, your best defense against the IRS at this point might be to pray.

E.J. Antoni is a public finance economist at The Heritage Foundation and a senior fellow at Committee to Unleash Prosperity.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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