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Armed IRS Agents Won't Jail You For Not Having Health Insurance

April 2, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Another day, another battle over health care reform. A false claim made by Congressional Republicans that the Affordable Care Act (H.R.3590) will result in the hiring of 16,000-16,500 new IRS agents, who might possibly be armed, is receiving some high-profile and well-deserved pushback.

Prominent Republicans in the House such as Minority Leader John Boehner [R, OH-8], Michelle Bachmann [R, MN-6] and Ron Paul [R, TX-14] have in recent days claimed that anywhere from 16,000 to 16,500 agents from the Internal Revenue Service could be deployed under the Affordable Care Act to make sure everyone purchases a health insurance plan.

Here’s Boehner (at 2:15):

“Ten billion dollars and 16,000 new IRS agents to make sure that everyone buys the health insurance that the government decides you have to have – making sure that every employer either provides health care to their employees or pays a $2,000 fine.”

Here’s Bachmann (at :20):

“…about 16,500 new jobs will be created at the IRS for a very important reason: the IRS will be tasked with breathing down the neck of 300,000 million Americans every month to determine whether we have purchased governmentally acceptable levels of health insurance.”

And here’s Rep. Paul (at 3:52):

“16,500 armed bureaucrats coming to make this program work. If it was a good program and everybody liked it, you wouldn’t need 16,500 thugs coming with their guns and putting you in jail if you didn’t follow all the rules.”

The non-partisan calls these claims “wildly inaccurate” and notes that the main fuction of the IRS for health care will be to hand out tax credits:

The IRS’ main job under the new law isn’t to enforce penalties. Its first task is to inform many small-business owners of a new tax credit that the new law grants them — starting this year — which will pay up to 35 percent of the employer’s contribution toward their workers’ health insurance. And in 2014 the IRS will also be administering additional subsidies — in the form of refundable tax credits — to help millions of low- and middle-income individuals buy health insurance. also singles out a partisan report put out by House Republicans as ground zero for this talking point. The report is based on incomplete estimates by the Congressional Budget Office about administrative costs that the IRS might experience under the Affordable Care Act over ten years. Long story short: the report makes some very equivocal and highly inflated claims that the IRS “may” have to hire “as many as” 16,500 new employees.

Boehner and company then took the admittedly hesitant wording of the report and repeated it in far more definitive and false terms. Ron Paul gets extra points for imagining up guns for all these hypothetical IRS agents.

In reality, only a small percentage of IRS employees – special law enforcement agents – are allowed to carry firearms. Also, criminal penalties for failing to comply with the health insurance mandate are specifically prohibited. Furthermore, common tools used by the IRS like liens and levies are also prohibited:

(2) SPECIAL RULES- Notwithstanding any other provision of law—

    (A) WAIVER OF CRIMINAL PENALTIES- In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.

    (B) LIMITATIONS ON LIENS AND LEVIES- The Secretary shall not—

    (i) file notice of lien with respect to any property of a taxpayer by reason of any failure to pay the penalty imposed by this section, or

    (ii) levy on any such property with respect to such failure.

Linda Douglass, the Communications Director at the White House Office of Health Reform is also joining the pushback and scolds those who have spread misinformation in this debate:

What’s clear from all of this is that there are people who refuse to have a debate on the merits of health care reform. Maybe that’s because these ardent defenders of the status quo are worried about the consequences of stopping at nothing to deny the American people quality and affordable health insurance.

Image by jimmyroq used under a CC license.

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  • craines 04/02/2010 8:20am

    I’m very glad I have this site to go to, I have had to print the last article out on this subject and actual take it over to people I know and give it to them. They refuse to go to this web site and check it out themselves.

    They would rather believe Russ L or Fox News. I watch MSN and CNN and FOX just to get a full view of what everyone is thinking or saying. It amazoning at the difference between the news and radio stations.

    I cant believe it sometimes, I just want to know the truth, Thanks for this web site. I always bring my wife and kids in and actually show them what the bills actually say so they can tell there friends. They hear the same things like they going to un-plug gram-pa.

    They now know better because I have show them whats in the bills being presented.

    Great Site


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  • BenjaWiz 04/02/2010 10:01am
    Link Reply
    + -1

    Why would they send ARMED IRS AGENTS to your house to begin with this is unconstitutional and we the people will fight the mandate this is absurd that your forced to buy healthcare or health insurance what BS.

  • BenjaWiz 04/02/2010 10:08am

    The government has no business, and or job forcing any citizen to buy anything the mandate must be done away with period hey Democrats how’s that hope and change working out for ya?? LMAO.

  • Smith_Satellite 04/02/2010 10:35am
    Link Reply
    + -1

    I think perhaps this blog post should attempt to be a little more objective given the perceived goal of OpenCongress and its founding partners, PPF and Sunlight. Misinformation can be found on both sides of the “fence”.

  • kevinmcc 04/02/2010 10:44am

    “Also, criminal penalties for failing to comply with the health insurance mandate are specifically prohibited.”

    Does that include willfully or untimely not paying compliance fines, penalties, taxes imposed by this section?

    Armed or not, they have the power to call in those that will be armed to enforce the law.

  • BenjaWiz 04/02/2010 3:23pm

    People use to fight for their rights, now they are lazy and just take whatever the govt tells them to do and if you fall out of line and disagree your unpatriotic.

  • JohnCowMilk 04/02/2010 5:31pm

    This guy misses the point altogether, or conveniently avoids it. The republicans (and many democrats too) are saying it’s a lose/lose situation. Either the IRS will have to hire 16,000 to 16,500 thugs to ensure that everyone buys insurance, OR the entire thing will collapse because there is NO way to ENFORCE it (which is congress’ favorite kind of law, one that will add another crisis to be fixed later.) How do you make every person buy insurance (which is Obama’s rationale for why he calls it “affordable”) yet at the same time tell everyone “We aren’t going to enforce this except for a fine that is a small fraction of what the insurance would cost you”? Why buy the insurance when you can pay around $800 for the fine and then go buy the insurance once you get sick???? There’s no more “preexisting conditions”!!!!

    I’m hoping Obama does the same for car insurance, so that I can drop my comprehensive & after I have an accident, buy JUST the insurance I need. LOL!

  • Smith_Satellite 04/02/2010 8:02pm

    Perhaps I should narrow my statements in my previous post. I meant to imply that the blog writer, Eric Naing, should try to be a little more objective in writing blogs for a site that is dedicated to objective information sharing.

  • craines 04/03/2010 8:10am
    Link Reply
    + -1

    You never know, once every thing kicks in and gets up and running and people like and use the system that they’re trying to put in place… the people that don’t pay might become the black sheep of our country and be ridiculed.

    It might become the America thing to do. All stand together so we can all have affordable insurance. Just a pipe dream I’m sure but we wont know for a few years down the road.

    It’s depends on how the politicians frame it.

  • qbit 04/03/2010 11:52am

    Is this site Nonpartisan? is ‘questionable’ on numerous issues. Like that’s your argument, dis the patriots and favor the NeoLiberal position, hmmm…
    First off, Ron Paul was speaking figuratively, secondly, who is there waiting to provide enforcement for the criminal IRS agency?

  • debdayem 05/01/2010 11:11am

    I certainly don;t find you very partisan.
    Fact check is really not nonpartisan – they lean heavily to the left and I will never use them again.
    Let me ask you something Eric, how do you really feel about the cost this new law will impose on the U.S. citizens?
    Also, just how will our government collect any fines for not having coverage? It gets removed from any tax refund, correct? The IRS agents can’t keep up with taxes as it is, how will they implement this and what is the cost on the taxpayer?

  • savi 07/19/2011 1:06pm

    Keep working and great job on the posts, I will come back again and check your feed out soon. careers with irs

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