The Internal Revenue Service revealed on Thursday that it has collected $1 billion in past-due back taxes from wealthy Americans in the last year. The record collections, conducted in partnership with the US Treasury Department and authorized by President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, come as the IRS makes efforts to shore itself up against possible budget cuts in the coming years by proving its usefulness to the American public—an effort undermined by the agency’s frequent audits targeting non-high-wealth citizens.

The IRS’ recent crackdown on delinquent back taxes among the uber-wealthy began in 2023, focusing specifically on those with more than $1 million in income and over $250,000 in outstanding tax debt. The initiative involved dozens of senior IRS employees and roughly 900 revenue officers. By January 2024, that effort had pulled in more than $520 million from high-income individuals, large corporations, and business partnerships.

“President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is increasing tax fairness and ensuring that all wealthy taxpayers pay the taxes they owe, just like working families do,” said U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen in a joint statement with the IRS. “A new initiative to collect overdue taxes from a small group of wealthy taxpayers is already a major success, yielding more than $1 billion in revenue so far.”

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The agency’s push to publicly prove its usefulness comes as leading IRS officials prepare for a potential Republican takeover in the Executive and Legislative Branches in the November election, which could lead to significant budget cuts for the department. The IRS received a significant funding boost under Biden’s 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which included controversial provisions for hiring, training, and arming new revenue officers. Facing the possibility of a less-than-sympathetic administration in 2025, the IRS has taken great pains to show that the money allocated to it is being put to good use.

In addition to collecting back taxes from wealthy individuals, the IRS has also launched a campaign to collect money owed by 125,000 earners who have not filed taxes in more than two years.

However, while Yellen and other Biden administration officials have repeatedly promised that the IRS will not increase audit levels for Americans making less than $400,000 a year, the vast majority of audits in 2023 target people well below this income level.

“It should also be noted that nearly two-thirds of audits initiated in 2023 were on those making less than $200,000,” said Demian Brady, vice president of research for the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.

Despite this fact, the IRS statement indicates that these efforts are merely intended to promote fairness and equity and ensure that the wealthy pay their “fair share.”

“We are overhauling compliance efforts to advance our commitment to fair, equitable, and effective tax administration and hold ourselves accountable to taxpayers we serve,” the agency’s statement said.

If funding levels for the agency do not change in the coming years, the IRS anticipates that it could generate $851 billion by 2034.

Connor Walcott is a staff writer for Follow Connor on X and look for him on VT’s “The Unusual Suspects.”

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