In an unusual display of force, an IRS Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) unit executed a search warrant at a business in Stuart, Florida, with dozens of armed agents in tactical gear. “It was like a scene from a movie,” an anonymous witness described.
An IRS spokesperson confirmed that the agents were “on official business.” Eyewitnesses reported seeing agents removing evidence from the premises.
The armed agents belong to the IRS-CI division, tasked with investigating financial crimes such as fraud and tax evasion. Despite concerns about their necessity, these agents are authorized to carry firearms due to the potentially dangerous nature of their work. The division’s authority and the need for firearms have been a topic of discussion, with figures like former Fox News host Tucker Carlson expressing concern about the militarization of the IRS.
Carissa Cutrell, public affairs officer at IRS-CI, stated there are around 2,100 agents in the criminal investigations division. As the only entity with the authority to investigate tax crimes, the division prioritizes the most severe cases. The unit aims to hire around 350 new agents this year to replenish its ranks depleted by retirements and attrition.
IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel underscored during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing that the IRS-CI unit is not involved in conducting audits, but rather in investigating acute fraud and tax evasion issues, with agents typically armed for self-protection.
The IRS-CI is currently recruiting new agents across all 50 states, according to USAJOBS.gov, with potential hires expected to participate in dangerous assignments and respond to life-threatening situations. IRS-CI special agent positions offer unique pay incentives, including a 25% increase over standard Office of Personnel Management pay scale to account for irregular and long working hours.
This raid, however, arrives amid criticism from Republicans concerned about the $80 billion funding boost to the IRS under the Biden administration. Despite assurances from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and others that the boost won’t increase audits on Americans earning under $400,000, critics fear the funds may be used to hire more tax enforcers who could target ordinary citizens.