The IRS announced on Tuesday that it would conduct a large-scale security review of its operations and facilities after becoming the target of attacks both online and from congressional Republicans over $80 billion in funding allocated to the agency under the Inflation Reduction Act.
“In recent days, there has been an abundance of misinformation and false social media postings, some of them with threats directed at the IRS and its employees. We are aware of these concerning messages, and I want to assure you that your safety is and will continue to be my top priority,” IRS commissioner Charles Rettig wrote in a Tuesday message to employees obtained by The Hill.
“Please know that we continually assess the security posture of our facilities. As part of this, we are conducting a comprehensive review of existing safety and security measures,” Rettig continued.
The security review will consist of measures including “monitoring perimeter security, designations of restricted areas, exterior lighting, security around entrances to our facilities and other various protections.”
In his message, Rettig also encouraged employees to take advantage of assistance programs if they are “feeling additional anxiety or concern.”
The security review, which was first reported by The Washington Post, was specifically requested by National Treasury Employees Union President Anthony M. Reardon.
In a letter sent over the weekend, Reardon said that his “members are increasingly worried about their safety, and we ask that you immediately take steps to enhance security at IRS facilities and take measures to minimize placing employees in settings where they are at risk.”
“I request that the IRS undertake a comprehensive review of safety and security measures at all IRS facilities,” Reardon said in his letter. “The last review of this type was done after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995.”
“I am sure you are aware of the recent dangerous and false rhetoric by some politicians and others,” he added.
The $80 billion boost in funding for the IRS in the Inflation Reduction Act has been a point of rage for Republicans. GOP lawmakers have warned the American public that there will be tens of thousands of new IRS agents hired and that low-income earners will be subject to increased audits.
Some lawmakers have even gone as far as suggesting that the agency would appear armed at local businesses.
In an appearance on “Fox & Friends” earlier in August, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) talked about whether the IRS was ready to send in armed units of agents into small Iowa businesses.
“Are they going to have a strike force that goes in with AK-15s already loaded, ready to shoot some small business person in Iowa with these, because I think they’re going after middle-class and small-business people,” he said.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) wrote an in an Aug. 16 open letter that IRS applicants “not only need to be ready to audit and investigate your fellow hardworking Americans, your neighbors and friends, you need to be ready and, to use the IRS’s words, willing, to kill them.”
Such statements have prompted backlash from Democratic lawmakers.
“This is exactly what I predicted would happen two weeks ago,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Tuesday in a statement to The Hill. “Republicans whipped people into a frenzy with their crazy conspiracy theories about 87,000 armed IRS agents, and it should shock no one that their supporters took them seriously. Republicans’ rhetoric is incredibly dangerous and needs to stop.”
Last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said big changes are coming to the IRS and that the agency has a “monumental opportunity to transform tax administration in this country.”
Yellen told the agency it has six months to deliver an in-depth operational plan for how to spend the $80 billion provided in the act.
“This operational plan should include details on how resources will be spent over the ten-year horizon on technology, service improvement, and personnel. This operational plan is key to ensuring the public and Congress are able to hold the agency accountable as it pursues needed improvements,” Yellen said in a memo.
In his letter sent over the weekend to Rettig, Reardon also asked that IRS field work requirements be diminished while public discourse about the agency remains charged.
“I also ask that, for the time being, the IRS minimize the amount of field work by IRS employees while these harmful statements circulate on news outlets and on social media and continue to incite violence against federal employees. Additionally, TIGTA (the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) and the Federal Protective Service should step up their efforts to protect IRS employees.”