With its special agent ranks significantly depleted after years of budget cuts, the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service announced this week that it is hiring new special agents. IRS-CI is responsible for investigating potential criminal violations of the tax laws and related financial crimes, and it currently has barely 2,000 special agents to carry out this critically-important mission, not just in the U.S. but across the globe. The job posting for IRS special agents was unveiled on February 11, 2019, and it will remain open for only five business days.

IRS-CI has been particularly hard hit by the years of reduced Congressional appropriations for the agency as a whole, as well as by retirements of veteran agents. From an all-time high of 3,363 special agents in 1995, the total number of special agents decreased precipitously over the next two decades. The following graphic – reproduced from IRS-CI Annual Report for 2016 – tells the story:

In FY2017, the number of special agents dropped further, to 2,159, and in FY2018, the number dipped to 2,019.

The hiring of new classes of IRS special agents will not, however, result in an immediate increase in the number of criminal investigations and prosecutions for tax crimes. New special agents undergo an extensive six-month training program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. And some experienced special agents will be pulled from the field in order to help train the new recruits. As a result, this new hiring initiative may in fact lead to a reduction in new criminal investigations, at least in the short term. Nevertheless, it is good news that IRS-CI has the funding to hire a new crop of special agents and this development should be welcomed by practitioners and law-abiding taxpayers alike. Tax evaders, on the other hand, should take heed.

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