Super PAC ad against Arizona Sen. Kelly uses border patrol images to fearmonger about IRS

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Club for Growth Action's new ad lies about the hiring of new IRS agents and suggests they will harm border security.

The pro-Republican super PAC Club for Growth Action released an ad attacking Democratic incumbent Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly on Friday, falsely claiming that provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act cracking down on wealthy tax evaders will lead to open borders.

Club for Growth Action, which is heavily bankrolled by billionaire conservative political donors Richard Uihlein and Jeff Yass, is urging voters to back Republican Blake Masters in his challenge to Kelly in the midterm voting ending on Election Day on Tuesday.

In the 45-second spot, a growing crowd of people is shown running in a desert. The video then shows a man sitting at a desk, with a horse standing saddled behind him, as an IRS agent asks him about his income. "So, how do you earn a living?" the agent asks, sniffing. "Border patrol," the man answers.

As the IRS auditor continues to ask him questions, the people run past them.

"Are we done?" the border patrol agent asks.

"We're just getting started," laughs the auditor.

Text on the screen then reads: "Mark Kelly voted for Joe Biden's 87,000 new IRS agents. Elect Blake Masters."

The claim that the IRS has been given funding to hire 87,000 new agents is a widely debunked lie.

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed unanimously by congressional Democrats in August over unanimous GOP opposition, includes an $80 billion increase in total funding for the IRS. Much of this money will go to enforcement.

But while a May 2021 preliminary plan issued by the Treasury Department suggested that that amount could go to hire 86,852 employees over the next few years, those employees would include replacements for the nearly 50,000 current staffers expected to retire over five years, and not all of them would be agents or auditors.

Republicans have turned the lie into a campaign talking point that the law will result in 87,000 new armed IRS agents coming to audit working families.

In recent years, cuts to IRS funding has led to a significant drop in the rate of audits of millionaires. The Center for American Progress reported in 2021 that a lack of enforcement has cost the U.S. Treasury more than $600 billion each year.

President Joe Biden's administration has made clear that all stepped-up enforcement will focus on wealthy people who are evading taxes.

On Aug. 10, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, ordering him to make sure that none of the increased enforcement is targeted at those making less than $400,000.

She wrote: "Specifically, I direct that any additional resources—including any new personnel or auditors that are hired—shall not be used to increase the share of small business or households below the $400,000 threshold that are audited relative to historical levels. This means that, contrary to the misinformation from opponents of this legislation, small business or households earning $400,000 per year or less will not see an increase in the chances that they are audited."

Seth Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told the American Independent Foundation in April 2021 that this would actually mean fewer audits for honest working families: "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."

The IRS is part of the Treasury Department and has no control over Customs and Border Protection, which is under Homeland Security.

Like all Americans who earn money, however, border security agents are required to truthfully report their income to the government each year. Less than 1% of individuals earning under $1 million annually are subject to audit.

According to Intuit's Mint website, the average salary for border patrol agents is $105,000 annually; Salary.com estimates the mean border patrol agent salary at $81,000 a year; and Glassdoor puts the average at $79,000, and lists a range of salaries between $47,000 and $134,000.

Border agents who truthfully report their income to the IRS should see no increase in the likelihood of being audited.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.