Former top advisers in the Trump administration and to the former president’s campaign see President Biden’s push to boost the power and scope of the IRS as a path back to Republican majorities in the House and Senate next year.
The Coalition to Protect American Workers, a conservative advocacy group, is targeting vulnerable House Democrats with a foreboding ad campaign warning that Mr. Biden wants to deploy an “army” of agents from the tax-collecting agency to harass taxpayers.
Tony Fabrizio, who was the Trump campaign’s chief pollster, said messaging tied to Mr. Bidens’s plan to boost IRS funding in order to target the wealthy for audits got the strongest negative reaction among a handful of the administration tax proposals tested.
“The top message here is: voting to raise taxes in order to spend $80 billion so the IRS can hire more tax collectors,” he said.
Mr. Fabrizio’s firm tested different messages tied to the president’s tax plans in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District and New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District, represented by Democratic Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux and Josh Gottheimer respectively.
Other questions asked if voters were more or less likely to support Ms. Bourdeaux and Mr. Gottheimer if they backed tax hikes to fund Mr. Biden’s electric vehicle agenda; if they voted to raise taxes to boost the state and local tax deduction, or “SALT” in tax-speak; and if they voted to raise capital gains taxes.
Mr. Fabrizio said in general, voters are skeptical that their taxes will stay flat when there’s talk of reforms.
“I don’t know how many focus groups you’ve sat through, but…most voters do not believe that I’m not going to tax you,” he said. “And so they start off from a very pessimistic and they start off from a very suspicious standpoint.”
Mr. Fabrizio conducted the polling for the coalition, a group led in part by Marc Short, a former top aide to former Vice President Mike Pence.
The group is targeting Ms. Bourdeaux and Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania in a new ad campaign that portrays dark-suited “IRS agents” coming for Americans’ pocketbooks.
“The new America — where congressional Democrats want to defund the police and Biden wants to add thousands of IRS agents,” the ad says.
Mr. Short said the group plans to soon have polling on Iowa’s 3rd congressional district, represented by Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne.
He said the administration is politically smart to try to paint the president’s desired tax increases as only falling on the wealthy and corporations, but that it’s not that simple.
“Our posture is [that] their tax plan is going to be much broader than that,” Mr. Short said.
He said increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% generates roughly $700 billion in revenue under a best-case scenario.
“Yet their total tax plan is near $3 trillion,” he said. “So where’s the rest of it?”
The White House says that under the president’s IRS enforcement plan, audit rates for people making less than $400,000 per year would not increase relative to recent years.
Mr. Biden predicted that such an effort to close the “tax gap” — the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid — could win support from Republican voters. He estimated that the stepped-up enforcement could help generate between $700 billion and $1.3 trillion in revenues for the federal government.
“Let’s say it’s somewhere in between. That’s a trillion dollars. I’m confident they would go for that,” the president recently told MSNBC.
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