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Is the IRS helping? Cash tax inspections of infrastructure

WASHINGTON (AP) – Republicans say they will not raise taxes on corporations. Democrats say they will not raise taxes on people earning less than $ 400,000 a year. So who will pay for the great public works that lawmakers and President Biden say the country needs?

Enter the IRS.

Biden is proposing that Congress set up a dilapidated, often flawed agency, saying more aggressive tax collection could help cover the cost of infrastructure, families and education to boost its multimillion-dollar education program. The White House estimates that more resources will be raised over the next 10 years to boost business, property and wealth audits.

It’s just the latest idea to emerge in a bipartisan bill on infrastructure that Biden mixed with the White House this week with a group of congressional leaders and a group of Republican senators. The senators of the General Assembly, which advertised the $ 566 billion infrastructure project, said that the discussion with Biden was “encouraged”, but all parties acknowledged that the method of payment for the public works program remains a difficult issue.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Biden presented his proposal to the IRS when he met with four leading members of Congress on Wednesday.

“My guess is that it’s at least $ 1 trillion, it could be a quarter of a trillion, a trillion and a half dollars of illegal, unpaid taxes in the country,” Pelosi said. “Part of the answer is to strengthen the IRS so they can levy those taxes,” he said. That can go a long way. ”

He meant the tax gap, which is the difference between taxes paid and “debt taxes”. In a politically charged environment, there is no consensus on how big the tax gap is, especially since most of it can be caught. But for lawmakers, it is a tangible target, increasing the potential to raise hundreds of billions of dollars without the need to raise taxes at all.

The question is, how big is the tax gap, how realistically is it possible to close it?

The Internal Revenue Service estimates the tax gap at $ 440 billion a year. But IRS Commissioner Charles Ratig stunned his audience at a recent Senate hearing when he proposed a new issue of $ 1 trillion a year.

The old estimates do not take into account the recent rise in income of self-employed band members, which can be under-reported, disguised as offshore income, and the growing use of cryptocurrency, making it difficult for taxpayers to identify taxpayers’ third-party transactions, experts say.

The $ 1 trillion figure is “not crazy. That’s entirely possible, “said Steve Wamhoff, director of federal tax policy at the Institute for Tax Left.

But Idaho Sen. Mike Crapon, a senior Republican on the Senate Treasury, called it “speculation.” And he worries that it could push the IRS into a more zealous coercion.

“It would be detrimental if the IRS’s efforts were not in line with taxpayers ‘obligations և taxpayers’ rights,” Crapo told Rettig in a letter this week.

In recent years, the IRS has lost battles for congressional funding, down about 20% since 2010, adjusting to inflation as its liabilities have grown. Biden’s new spending proposals over 10 years include an additional $ 80 billion to boost the IRS audit of high-income individuals and corporations.

Some experts say enhanced audits may be too low for $ 700 billion in revenue. The Penn Wharton Budget Model, a research organization affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, estimates that the proposed cost of the IRS recruitment effort will be about $ 480 billion by 2022-2031.

In selling its bill, the White House emphasized what it describes as a “two-tier tax administration system” in the United States. While regular employees pay taxes on their wages, some wealthy taxpayers are finding ways to make ends meet.

Those earning $ 25,000 a year are audited at a higher interest rate (0.69%) than those earning up to $ 500,000 (0.53%), according to the IRS. Earned income taxpayers, mostly low-income workers with children, are being screened faster than all wealthy taxpayers, but the Millionaires’ audit rate has fallen from 8.4% in 2010 to 2.4% in 2019. :

The IRS rejects the idea of ​​unfair auditing, saying critics have misinterpreted the data. Retig responded to the Senate hearing proposal. High-income taxpayers are “more audited than any other taxpayer,” he said, at a rate of more than 8% for those earning more than $ 10 million.

For now, Republicans are only ruled out reconsidering the 2017 tax cuts, which they passed without any democratic support. It remains to be seen to what extent they are prepared to raise the IRS as part of the infrastructure bill. Kentucky Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans prefer to fund infrastructure through user fees, such as fees and gasoline taxes.

Following the drastic cuts in the agency over the past decade, a significant change for the GOP would be to return the stable investment in the IRS that Biden is talking about, which experts say is needed to reduce the tax gap.

Republican lawmakers who oversee IRS funding have long accused it of giving too much impetus to the lives of ordinary taxpayers. Their hostility to the IRS sparked outrage during the Obama administration in 2013, when the agency admitted to targeting conservative tea party groups with an intensified, often overcrowded check as they applied for tax-exempt status.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote in his state-run Des Moines Register newspaper that he was not opposed to closing the tax gap, but that he was concerned about the White House’s efforts.

“Instead of promising chicken in every pot, Biden promises an auditor at every kitchen table,” Grassley wrote.

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Follow Mars Gordon https://twitter.com/mgordonap

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