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IRS launches security review after 'misinformation' and threats against agency

The announcement follows backlash on the right to President Joe Biden’s signing the Inflation Reduction Act, which will boost funding for the IRS.
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig testifies at a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing in Washington on March 17.
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig testifies at a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing in Washington on March 17.Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP file

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig informed staff members Tuesday that the agency will launch a "comprehensive review" of its safety and security measures following threats on social media and elsewhere, according to an internal memo obtained by NBC News.

"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," Rettig, a Trump appointee, told employees in describing the security review, which will include risk assessments and designating restricted areas.

The agency has also boosted its communications with the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement officials “so we’re ready to implement additional countermeasures and notifications to employees if circumstances warrant,” Rettig said.

The letter, first reported by The Washington Post, comes amid heated rhetoric from conservatives both on and off Capitol Hill about how the IRS will operate after implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law last week.

The law includes $80 billion for the IRS spread out over a decade — funding that Democrats argue is sorely needed to improve efficiency and revenue at an agency they say has been understaffed for years.

Criticism of the IRS on the right picked up after the FBI searched former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, where agents found a trove of classified documents.

Days after the search, Fox News personality Brian Kilmeade called the IRS “Joe Biden’s new army” and claimed agents from the tax-collecting agency could “hunt down and kill middle-class taxpayers that don’t pay enough.” Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., suggested on the House floor that firearm-carrying IRS officials would be “committing armed robbery on Americans.” Both were apparently referring to a job posting for the agency’s Criminal Investigation Division that has been mischaracterized.

In an open letter last week, Senate Republican campaign chair Rick Scott of Florida discouraged job seekers from applying for IRS positions, claiming the Biden administration would use the new law to create “an IRS super-police force” to “audit and investigate” unassuming Americans.

Rettig, who was confirmed by the Senate in 2018, pushed back against such characterizations in Tuesday's memo.

“For me this is personal,” he said. “I’ll continue to make every effort to dispel any lingering misperceptions about our work.”