By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times
Sen. Joni Ernst has announced legislation to take away IRS agents’ guns and ammunition, saying it makes no sense for an agency that enforces civil tax laws to arm employees.
The Iowa Republican has written the “Why Does the IRS Have Guns Act,” which would block the agency from obtaining new guns and require it to give up its current arsenal, with the weapons auctioned off and the money used to cut the federal budget deficit.
The IRS’s criminal division, which employs the armed agents, would be moved into the Justice Department, where it would sit alongside other law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service.
“The taxman is fully loaded at the expense of the taxpayer,” Ms. Ernst said in announcing her legislation.
She pointed to research by OpenTheBooks.com that said the IRS has spent $35.2 million on guns, ammunition and other “military-style” equipment since 2006.
The IRS’s arsenal has long been a source of questions from Capitol Hill, but it has taken on new dimensions after Democrats last year powered through a new law giving the tax agency $80 billion in new money.
Critics envisioned an army of armed agents scouring communities to harass Americans struggling to pay taxes.
IRS officials said the money would actually go to customer service representatives and technology, to help ease taxpayers’ filing woes, as well as auditors who would chiefly target the books of wealthy tax cheats.
IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel told Congress in April that none of those auditors will be armed.
But he didn’t rule out hiring more armed special agents at the IRS’s criminal investigative division.
The division currently employs 2,100 agents — about 3% of the IRS’s workforce — and it is charged with investigating money laundering, violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and serious cases of tax evasion.
“Our criminal investigation division is where we work to reduce and engage in tax fraud and acute areas of tax evasion where in order to enforce, we’re putting federal employees’ life in danger and therefore, there’s a need to arm,” Mr. Werfel said.