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FactCheck.org: 16,500 new IRS agents? Far from it

April 5, 2010

FactCheck.org, which goes good work examining the claims of many in Washington D.C. and beyond, has provided a breakdown of what the new mandate for health insurance coverage will mean when it comes to the Internal Revenue Service.

That new requirement in the recently approved health care bill provides for some people to face a tax if they fail to obtain health insurance, but the provision won’t require the addition of 16,500 gun-tottin’ IRS agents, as some have claimed. I’ve seen the claim repeatedly made by members of Congress, in letters to the editor and elsewhere.

So where did that number come from, and is it accurate?

From FactCheck.org

This wildly inaccurate claim started as an inflated, partisan assertion that 16,500 new IRS employees might be required to administer the new law. That devolved quickly into a claim, made by some Republican lawmakers, that 16,500 IRS “agents” would be required. Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas even claimed in a televised interview that all 16,500 would be carrying guns. None of those claims is true.

The IRS’ main job under the new law isn’t to enforce penalties. Its first task is to inform many small-business owners of a new tax credit that the new law grants them — starting this year — which will pay up to 35 percent of the employer’s contribution toward their workers’ health insurance. And in 2014 the IRS will also be administering additional subsidies — in the form of refundable tax credits — to help millions of low- and middle-income individuals buy health insurance.

The law does make individuals subject to a tax, starting in 2014, if they fail to obtain health insurance coverage. But IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified before a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee March 25 that the IRS won’t be auditing individuals to certify that they have obtained health insurance. He said insurance companies will issue forms certifying that individuals have coverage that meets the federal mandate, similar to a form that lenders use to verify the amount of interest someone has paid on their home mortgage. “We expect to get a simple form, that we won’t look behind, that says this person has acceptable health coverage,” Shulman said. “So there’s not going to be any discussions about health coverage with an IRS employee.” In any case, the bill signed into law (on page 131) specifically prohibits the IRS from using the liens and levies commonly used to collect money owed by delinquent taxpayers, and rules out any criminal penalties for individuals who refuse to pay the tax or those who don’t obtain coverage. That doesn’t leave a lot for IRS enforcers to do.

Head to FactCheck.org to read more analysis of this and other claims.

Looking for some more info on whether the health care bill provides federal funding for abortions? FactCheck.org has taken a look, and you can read their findings here.

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