Republican cuts have crippled the Internal Revenue Service’s ability to audit rich tax cheats, while pressure from those same Republicans has led the IRS to increase audits of the working poor.
An investigation by ProPublica and The Atlantic found that years of Republican-led budget cuts have gutted the agency, causing a steep loss in government revenues. According to ProPublica, the cost to taxpayers may be “at least $18 billion every year, but the true cost could easily run tens of billions of dollars higher.”
According to the report, the IRS conducted 675,000 fewer audits in 2017 than it did seven years earlier. Because of the repeated cuts, the IRS has drastically stopped pursuing “nonfilers” who do not submit their tax returns. The number of investigations into nonfilers fell from 2.4 million in 2011 to 362,000 in 2017. The agency has also drastically reduced its investigations of filers who do not pay their tax debts. In 2010, the IRS let $482 million in old tax debt lapse, but by 2017, that number increased to $8.3 billion.
Corporations and billionaires have been the “biggest beneficiaries” of the IRS cuts, because large-scale audits require specialized personnel, ProPublica reported, noting that the federal government has left 18 to 20 percent of potential tax revenues uncollected as a result.