If you ever meet an off-duty Internal Revenue Service auditor, they probably won’t admit where they work. “What do you do?” is “always a party killer,” says former agent Elyse Katz. Best to keep it vague, she says, and hope that “accountant” is boring enough to move the conversation along to another topic.
Few things make Americans more anxious than an IRS agent in their midst, even when the occasion is social rather than, say, an audit. It’s the audit that inspires many people’s fear of the agency, helping it poll as the least trusted of major federal departments. Last year, when President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats secured almost $80 billion in extra IRS funding across the next decade under the Inflation Reduction Act, it didn’t take long for the agency’s critics to raise the prospect of rampant nosiness, with Republican politicians claiming that an army of 87,000 armed agents would soon be poking through Americans’ finances.