Republicans Investigate Claims IRS Is Targeting Taxpayers With AI

The IRS has long faced criticism from the right over concerns that its policies unfairly targeted conservatives. Amid a settlement negotiation in 2017, the revenue agency apologized for its aggressive behavior toward dozens of right-leaning groups during the Obama administration.

Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered a statement about the scandal at the time, asserting: “There is no excuse for this conduct. Hundreds of organizations were affected by these actions, and they deserve an apology from the IRS. We hope that today’s settlement makes clear that this abuse of power will not be tolerated.”

A subsequent statement from the agency acknowledged using “heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays” in its interactions with conservative organizations.

“For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology,” it continued.

Now that Joe Biden, who served as vice president during the earlier scandal, is now at the helm of the executive branch, conservatives are once again railing against potential political retribution by the IRS. Specifically, two House Republicans — Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio and Rep. Harriet Hageman of Wyoming — are looking into claims that the agency is using artificial intelligence surveillance tools on Americans without obtaining warrants.

The latest allegations stemmed in part from a video clip apparently revealing an IRS official’s discussion of such a program that allows tax returns, bank statements and other financial documents to be analyzed via high-tech means.

In a joint statement, Jordan and Hageman wrote: “The use of AI technology to actively monitor millions of Americans’ private transactions, bank accounts, and related financial information — without any legal process — is highly concerning. This kind of pervasive financial surveillance, carried out in coordination with federal law enforcement, into Americans’ private financial records raises serious doubts about the IRS’s — and the federal government’s — respect for Americans’ fundamental civil liberties.”

Of course, the politicization of taxation is not strictly a recent concept, as journalist and author of the book “A Law Unto Itself: Power, Politics and the IRS” David Burnham explained.

“In almost every administration since the IRS’s inception, the information and power of the tax agency have been mobilized for explicitly political purposes,” he said.