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Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske August 24, 2022
Maria Ramirez Uribe
By Maria Ramirez Uribe August 24, 2022
Sara Swann
By Sara Swann August 24, 2022

Cline embellishes potential IRS expansion

If Your Time is short

  • The Inflation Reduction Act will send $80 billion in additional funds to the IRS over the next 10 years to improve technology and potentially hire 87,000 employees.
  • Not all of the hirees will expand the IRS's overall workforce. Many will replace an estimated 50,000 employees who are expected to retire or leave the agency for other reasons during the next six years. 
  • Even if the IRS hired all 87,000 employees at once and no current workers left, the agency would still be about 34,000 employees smaller than the Pentagon, FBI, State Department and the Border Patrol combined, according to the best figures available.

Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va., says a recent law signed by President Joe Biden will trigger runaway growth of the Internal Revenue Service.

"This will make the IRS workforce larger than the Pentagon, FBI, State Department, and Customs and Border Patrol, combined," he wrote in an Aug. 12 statement.

Cline was echoing a faulty Republican talking point about the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a sweeping environmental and health care bill passed by Democrats earlier this month. The reforms will be largely paid for by increasing taxes on individuals and corporations earning more than $400,000 a year, and by expanding the IRS to crack down on unpaid taxes by wealthy filers.

The IRS size comparison — Cline’s office and other Republicans said — comes from an Aug. 6 report from the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative political news website.

"If Democrats have their way, one of the most detested federal agencies — the Internal Revenue Service — will employ more bureaucrats than the Pentagon, State Department, FBI, and Border Patrol combined," the article said. "That would make the IRS one of the largest federal agencies."

There’s no question the infusion of funds made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act will enlarge the IRS, which has experienced years of funding cuts and workforce losses. But a review of the best figures immediately available found Cline overstated just how large the IRS staff would grow compared to other agencies. 

Among the Republicans who made this flawed comparison is state Sen. Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, who is running for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Elaine Luria, a Democrat.  

Misleading numbers

Cline’s comparison is based on his faulty premise that the law will provide $80 billion to "double the size of the IRS, adding an army of 87,000 new enforcement agents."

PolitiFact has repeatedly debunked similar statements. The $80 billion will pay for upgrading technology at the agency, as well as incrementally hiring new employees during the next 10 years.

The 87,000 hiring figure is not set in stone; it’s based on a 2021 estimate by the Treasury Department. The Treasury said it will be several months before it comes up with a final spending plan. 

Cline’s statement is also misleading because not all of the new IRS employees will work in tax enforcement; many will work in IT, others in customer service. And not all of them will be new employees added to the overall workforce. Many of the hires will replace an estimated 50,000 IRS workers who are expected to retire or leave for other reasons during the next six years. 

The IRS now has about 79,000 full time staffers. The Washington Post has reported the staff will grow by about 30% during the next decade.

Featured Fact-check

Cline’s agency counts don’t add up

To fairly compare the workforces mentioned by Cline against IRS growth, we searched for each agency’s "full-time equivalent" positions. Customs and Border Protection and the FBI list this information in their congressional budget requests. 

Cline also included the Pentagon and the State Department in his list. The Pentagon is the headquarters of the Defense Department, but we were unable to immediately locate its employment figures in terms of FTEs. The State Department lists employment positions by bureau and agency, and we did not find a departmentwide FTE figure.  

Comparing a department like the IRS with a group of agencies, departments and offices is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. But we used the numbers that were available to assess the claim’s accuracy as best as possible. 

Here’s a breakdown of each organization's workforce using available figures:

The workforce of the Pentagon, State Department, FBI, and Customs and Border Protection combined is nearly 199,000. That’s about 34,000 more positions than the IRS would have if it added 87,000 new employees at once and none of its current 78,000 employees left, which is not what is planned.

Our ruling

Cline claimed that with the addition of 87,000 new agents, the IRS will be "larger than  the Pentagon, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Protection and the State Department combined."

The Inflation Reduction Act will provide funding that will allow the IRS to strengthen its workforce significantly, but just how that will play out is not set in stone. The best figures available strongly suggest the agency will not become as big as Cline has said.

We rate Cline’s statement Mostly False.


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Cline embellishes potential IRS expansion

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