Do Republicans Distrust the IRS in the Same Way Bank Robbers Distrust the Cops?

The New York Times had a piece that told readers about the resistance of Republicans to increased enforcement funding for the I.R.S. because of “years of G.O.P. resentment toward the agency.” This line appeared in the article’s subhead.

In addition to complaints about forcing people to pay the taxes required under the law, the piece also tells people:

“For conservative activists, who have harbored enmity toward the I.R.S. for more than a decade, the agency is considered a threat that is beyond reclamation.”

As the article subsequently explains, the I.R.S. investigated many conservative groups for inapproptiately claiming tax exempt status if they used terms like “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names. It goes on to note that a report by the agency’s inspector general found that it used similar shorthand in selecting progressive groups for investigation. In other words, the I.R.S. was carrying through its responsibility to enforce the law, not targeted right-wing groups because they were conservative.

There is absolutely nothing in this piece to support the view that Republicans have any reason to distrust the I.R.S. other than it tries to make people pay their taxes. The piece implies that Republicans in Congress would be happy to go along with increased funding for tax enforcement if it were down by someone other than the I.R.S. There is absolutely zero reason to believe this is true.

This first ran on Dean Baker’s Beat the Press blog.

Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. 

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