Study: Taxpayers Targeted at Higher Rates Under Democratic Presidents

The Internal Revenue Service targets individual taxpayers and corporations for audits at higher rates when Democrats are in control of the White House, according to a study highlighted by Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy.

The study by Sutirtha Bagchi, an assistant professor of economics at Villanova University, examined IRS budget and personnel figures dating back to 1978 to determine “whether presidential administrations use executive power to affect IRS resources and priorities and thus influence the effective tax rate to support their larger policy goals,” according to the Shorenstein Center.

The study found a statistically significant correlation between the party of the president and the number of individual income tax returns audited by the IRS. On average, four percent more individual income tax audits were performed under Democratic administrations than under Republican administrations.

Corporate income tax audits were found to be five percent higher under Democratic administrations than under Republican administrations.

The study found that the party in control of the House of Representatives and the Senate had no statistical impact on the frequency of audits.

Harvard’s Shorenstein Center highlighted the study as the IRS faces criticism for targeting conservative groups that sought tax-exempt status before the 2012 presidential election.

Despite variation in the number of audits, the study concluded that the president’s party and the party in control of the House of Representatives does not significantly impact the size of the IRS’s budget and workforce.

However, the study found an increased IRS budget and workforce when Democrats control the Senate. Additionally, the president’s party was shown to have a statistically significant impact on the number of enforcement personnel employed by the IRS when the House of Representatives and Senate are both controlled by Democrats.

“During the heyday of the IRS scandal, when conservative groups critical of President Obama saw their applications for tax exempt status delayed, questioned or killed, Democrats controlled the House and Senate,” Washington Examiner reporter Paul Bedard noted.

On Monday, Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonpartisan government watchdog group, named IRS Commissioner John Koskinen its 2015 “Porker of the Year” due to a “long litany of incompetence and obstruction” as head of the agency.
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