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'They are coming after us': Florida's CFO has his eyes on the IRS

Tampa Bay Times via Miami Herald

Warning, “They are coming here. They are coming after us,” Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis wants the Legislature to take steps next year to offset new hiring at the Internal Revenue Service under a law signed this week by President Joe Biden.

Patronis, who is running for re-election, rolled out “Four Pillars of IRS Protection” that he wants state lawmakers to consider as a hedge against the new federal law, which includes funding to hire 87,000 IRS employees --- not just agents --- over the next 10 years.

“There is documented evidence that the IRS targeted Tea Party groups in 2013, and no doubt the IRS under the Biden administration would do the same to many businesses and organizations in Florida who have professed a love of freedom,” Patronis wrote. “Florida must force IRS bureaucrats to think twice before once again targeting conservatives.”

Patronis wants the Legislature to require state-chartered banks to generate regular reports on IRS engagement to “help identify any potential patterns of discrimination and highlight how the new auditors are targeting the middle class and small businesses;” set up a civil-liability trust fund to provide some legal assistance for small businesses in tax cases; require new IRS agents to register with the state to access account information; and set criminal penalties for enforcement of any law that was based on a “viewpoint or political discrimination.”

Former state Rep. Adam Hattersley, a Riverview Democrat who is running against Patronis in November, called the CFO’s proposal “an ill-timed attempt to change the conversation. Floridians aren’t fooled.”

Trying to rally supporters ahead of the elections, Republicans have locked onto the 87,000 hiring figure, which includes all aspects of the IRS, from agents to customer service. The hiring is included in the law known as the Inflation Reduction Act.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, while campaigning Sunday in Phoenix for Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters and Arizona gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake, said IRS agents will be used to go after people the government doesn’t like.

“They are going to be sicced on working people; contractors, restaurant owners, people that drive Ubers. They're not going after the billionaires,” DeSantis said.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, the former Florida governor who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, warned potential IRS job applicants Tuesday that their potential employment might be short-term if the GOP takes control of the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate in November. He said in an open letter that “we will immediately do everything in our power to defund this insane and unwarranted expansion of government.”

Democrats contend most of the additional auditing will focus on more-affluent people.

“Contrary to the misinformation from opponents of this legislation, small business or households earning $400,000 per year or less will not see an increase in the chances that they are audited,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote Aug. 11 to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.

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