PUNTA GORDA, Fla.–On Aug. 16, small business owners and independent contractors across Florida became fearful of their futures as Gov. Ron DeSantis questioned the sanity of Washington.
On that day, President Joe Biden signed into law the “Inflation Reduction Act,” giving the IRS nearly $80 billion, with $45.6 billion going towards “enforcement,” which requires hiring more agents.
But what stood out the most among Florida’s small business owners was who the expanded agency would target for auditing.
At a press event on Aug. 17, DeSantis expressed frustration.
“What have they done? … 87,000 new IRS agents and they are going after you.”
They will be unleashed on American taxpayers, he said. ” … they are gonna go after independent contractors.”
Uber drivers, handymen “and others” are identified as independent contractors and all are “contenders” for audits, DeSantis said. “They’re going to crush a lot of people by doing that.”
Not only will small businesses be targeted, but also “people that the government doesn’t like,” the governor said.
“Let’s just be honest,” he said. “We’ve seen how this operates–you have these enforcement agencies that basically represent one faction of the country and they are going after the other.”
Even though IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said in an Aug. 4 letter to Congress that the billions in funding won’t increase “audit scrutiny on small businesses or middle-income Americans,” others beg to differ.
Bobby Gross Jr. is part owner of his family’s 50-year-old paving company located in Port Charlotte and believes that the IRS is coming after small businesses like his.
“They’re (IRS) there to hunt, and we’re the prey,” Gross told The Epoch Times on Aug. 17. “The government is going to pay for the Inflation Reduction Act on the backs of small businesses.”
Gross believes small businesses are the key to raising the $750 billion price tag for the new law because “there aren’t that many billionaires in the country,” that can “generate enough money to pay for it.”
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis agreed and will propose in the upcoming legislative session what he calls the “Four Pillars of IRS Protection.” He is doing this to “get in front of” whatever the IRS has planned. But make no mistake, he says, “Florida is a target,” especially conservatives.
“Even though the Free State of Florida cannot control the insanity of Washington we must do what we can to protect our small businesses,” Patronis told The Epoch Times on Aug. 18. “This massive super expansion of the IRS is concerning to me. I think Washington is totally disconnected from what real Americans and Main Street is feeling.”
The four pillars of protection Patronis is suggesting involve requiring state-chartered banks to generate a regular report on IRS engagement in order to identify if patterns of “targeting the middle class and small businesses are ongoing. Second, establishing a Civil Liability Trust Fund to help small businesses defend themselves–or sue the IRS–in cases of politically motivated audits or any federal overreach. Third, requiring new IRS agents coming into the state to have a Florida license. And last, establishing criminal penalties by enforcing laws based on viewpoint or political discrimination.
Political discrimination, as Patronis called it, is a concern for Carl Mottler, who owns a land-clearing company in Southwest Florida.
“I think every conservative, every conservative business, every conservative-run state and city will be targeted because that’s exactly what we have seen in the past,” Mottler told The Epoch Times on Aug. 17. “We saw it with the IRS targeting the Tea Party when Obama was president.”
In 2013 Lois Lerner “retired” from her position as the director of Exempt Organizations of the IRS. She was found guilty of “neglect of duties” after she testified in a Congressional oversight committee hearing that the IRS had “wrongly scrutinized conservative groups” and that it “had been going on for years.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the IRS projects to bring in almost $204 billion in revenue from 2022 to 2031. In the fiscal years 2015 and 2019 IRS audits declined by 44 percent, according to a 2021 Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report.
Mottler said the process in any IRS audit is “unfair” and that the IRS has an “unfair advantage.”
“The problem with the IRS is that they are judge, jury, and executioner of all things financial,” he said. “There’s no due process, they can take and seize everything you have, and you have to try and show that you’re in the right; and you have to because they’re the ones who judge whether you’re right or wrong, and then they’re the ones who impose the sentence.”
Mottler said the IRS needs an “overhaul” not hiring more agents–especially ones that carry firearms.
Nurse practitioner Lisa Ransom said she has the same fears and doesn’t understand why IRS agents would carry a firearm and be asked to possess the “fortitude to pull the trigger.”
“These political people who held office … being arrested and strip-searched. Well, look at Trump—if they can do that to him and other people what will they do to us? “she asked. “This is still America. Are they really going to force their way onto your private property?”
Ransom who began her private medical practice three months ago said she is bothered and upset at the prospect of losing everything she has worked for because of the new law.
“Without any notice, they can just seize your assets and bank accounts before you have had a chance to defend yourself,’ she said. “They can put you out of business.”
Above all, Ransom said she worries about what IRS scrutiny could do to the economy.
“People will just stop using their bank accounts and go straight to operating on a cash basis,” she predicted. “I guarantee that’s what’s going to happen because you can’t track cash.”
Patronis said Ransom’s concerns are justified.
“Lisa is right, it’s gonna have a chilling effect on commerce,” Patronis said. “You will have people hoarding cash, out of just a simple fear.”
Gross said he wonders if cash apps like PayPal will be affected by the new legislation.
“What if you want to sell your couch on Craigslist to pay bills,” he said. “Will the IRS track that and wonder what you did with the money?”
“What strikes me as odd is the way the government is going about this … like World War II stuff where they are tracking our every move and we will be labeled and targeted based on our political views and affiliations,” he said. “What happens after the audit—financial concentration camps?”