GOP congressman falsely claims Biden plans to target the poor with new tax plan


Rep. Mike Bost's tweet about tax audits of the poor was based on evidence-free claims.

Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) baselessly claimed Monday that President Joe Biden's proposed crackdown on rich tax cheats would mostly result in audits of poor people. But the entire point of Biden's proposal is to allow the Internal Revenue Service to better target rich evaders with audits.

"According to the Federalist, the IRS is 3 TIMES more likely to audit folks making under $25k than someone in the top 1% under Biden & Pelosi's plan," Bost tweeted. "I cosponsored the Protecting Financial Privacy Act to prohibit the IRS from imposing mandates like this."

Part of Biden's Build Back Better plan — which would invest $3.5 trillion in child care, health care, paid leave, free community college and pre-school, clean energy, and climate change infrastructure — would be funded by hiring more IRS agents and expanding the amount of information reported by banks. Experts say this could bring in more than $100 billion over a decade in funds owed but not paid to the IRS.

Republicans have unanimously opposed the package and have particularly objected to a provision that would mandate the collection of annual transaction totals for bank accounts with more than $600 in them, a move the administration says will allow it to better track wealthy people who are gaming the system and underreporting their income.

There is no evidence that enactment of this proposal would disproportionately hurt low-income families.

Bost's tweet cites a report published Oct. 17 on the right-wing site The Federalist. That story's author, who is described as an intern at the publication, does make the claim, "Under a new Biden administration proposal, the Internal Revenue Service is three times more likely to audit a citizen making less than $25,000 rather than someone in the top 1 percent of wealth."

But the intern's only source is a tweet and a YouTube video in which conservative commentator Saagar Enjeti makes the unsourced claim that the IRS is currently "3X more likely to audit someone making less than 25,000 than someone in the top 1%."

Enjeti asserts, without any evidence, that "the 600 dollar proposal would only give them even more ammunition to go after working-class Americans."

A series of investigations by ProPublica in 2018 and 2019 found that due to cuts to IRS enforcement budgets and staff, fewer rich Americans were getting audited and the percentage of audits was about equal for the top 1% and those making $20,000 or less.

The agency admitted in 2019 that, with slashed funding, it was easier and cheaper to audit people claiming the earned income tax credit than it was to audit the wealthy who filed more complicated returns.

The Biden administration says that increased IRS enforcement actions would target wealthy taxpayers and result in fewer audits for people in lower- or middle-income brackets.

Seth Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a federal tax policy expert, told The American Independent Foundation in May, "The whole point is it will let the IRS target audits in a smarter way, so honest people are gonna be less likely to be audited. People earning under $400,000 — as long as they're tax compliant — are gonna be less likely to be audited. The audit rate for those earning under $400,000 won't go up."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.