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IRS special agent job ad misrepresented online

August 16, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: An online job ad shows that all new employees that the IRS intends to hire after a funding boost in the Inflation Reduction Act will be required to carry a firearm and use deadly force if necessary.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. A legitimate job ad for special agents within the small law enforcement division of the IRS that works on criminal investigations is being misrepresented online, officials and experts say. The job description does not apply to most potential new employees that the IRS will hire in the coming years. The vast majority of IRS workers are not armed.

THE FACTS: After Senate Democrats this month passed a $740 billion economic package, which includes nearly $80 billion for the IRS, social media users shared the false claim that all new employees in the agency will be required to carry guns.

Many posts in recent days shared a screenshot that features the IRS logo and the text, “Major Duties.” The listed duties on the image include being able to “carry a firearm and be willing to use deadly force, if necessary.” Social media users claimed that the image was a job ad for thousands of new IRS employees that will be hired as a result of the bill, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act.

“The IRS is looking to fill 87,000 positions,” one Facebook user who shared the image wrote in a post on Wednesday. “Requirements include working min ‘50 hours per week, which may include irregular hours, and be on-call 24/7, including holidays and weekends’ and ‘Carry a firearm and be willing to use deadly force, if necessary.’”

One Twitter user wrote on Wednesday: “Want to be one of the new 87,000 IRS agents? Are you willing to carry a firearm and use DEADLY FORCE? This is not at all concerning.”

These social media users are falsely depicting a legitimate job ad for a special agent with IRS Criminal Investigation — the agency’s law enforcement division — as a generic ad for all new positions.

While that language does not currently appear on the IRS web page advertising the special agent role, a search of the Internet Archive shows that the same language can be found on the page as recently as last Thursday. Justin Cole, a spokesperson for IRS Criminal Investigation, told The Associated Press that the screenshots circulating online appear to show the special agent web page and confirmed that the language had been on the site but was removed. He said it was removed in error amid the spate of misinformation about IRS employees carrying weapons, but the language will be added back to the web page.

Special agents with IRS Criminal Investigation, who investigate criminal tax violations and other related financial crimes, are the only IRS employees who carry firearms, according to Anny Pachner, a spokesperson for the division. Special agents compose a small sliver of the IRS workforce. There are about 2,000 special agents within the agency, which has roughly 80,000 total employees. The division dates back to 1919 and has always employed armed agents. The agency is currently hiring 300 special agents, according to the online job posting.

Among the agents’ duties are executing search and arrest warrants, as well as seizures, per the posting. This is very different from the work of other IRS employees. For instance, revenue agents work on complex audits of corporations, while customer service representatives answer tax-related questions, according to the IRS. Neither roles are law enforcement positions, unlike IRS Criminal Investigation special agents.

“In reality, only a small fraction of IRS employees – about 2,100 special agents in IRS Criminal Investigation – carry firearms,” Cole wrote in an email to the AP. “This is consistent with other federal law enforcement agencies.”

The claim that the IRS is going to hire 87,000 new agents in general due to the Inflation Reduction Act is also misleading, as the AP has previously reported. The figure comes from a prior Treasury Department proposal to hire roughly that many IRS employees over the next decade, but there is no explicit mandate for such a workforce in the act, officials and experts say. The IRS will finalize its hiring plans in the coming months, according to Treasury officials. Many new IRS hires will replace employees who are expected to retire or quit, and not all of them will be auditors.

The notion that all new IRS employees funded by the bill will be gun-carrying agents is false, according to Heather Field, co-director of the Center on Tax Law at University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

“Any claim that all of the IRS’s anticipated hires per the IRA would be for this division is a misrepresentation,” she wrote in an email to the AP.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.