Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis wants the Legislature to stand in the way of IRS agents expanding audits in Florida.
At a Tallahassee press conference, he publicly backed bills filed by Sen. Blaise Ingoglia and Rep. Toby Overdorf, both Republicans, intended to curb abuse by the federal government of businesses in the Sunshine State.
Standing behind 160 pounds of printed federal code, Patronis slammed the recent decision by Congress to budget 87,000 additional IRS agents at President Joe Biden’s request. The funding was part of the Inflation Reduction Act, which included efforts to boost federal revenue by stepping up enforcement of the law.
Patronis said the IRS has plenty of capacity now to ensure people pay their bills.
“The way I look at it is, there’s an IRS already established that already received a budget from the federal government to do the job that they’re supposed to do,” he said.
Patronis said he’s especially concerned after attempts in 2021 by the IRS to step up reporting requirements on bank accounts with more than $600 in transactions, an unpopular measure ultimately abandoned by the Biden administration.
“They’re putting more boots on the ground that go after more dollars, and more potential points of encounter with different accounts. The only way you can do that is to go after small businesses or individuals,” he said.
He alluded to recent comments by Twitter owner Elon Musk, who mocked “the country that revolted over taxes” hiring more IRS personnel. When a user responded, “they’re not going after you, they’re coming after us,” Musk replied by tweeting, “True. I already get audited every year by default.”
Patronis also recalled a scandal from 2013 when the IRS under former President Barack Obama was accused of targeting politically conservative groups with audits. The Justice Department settled with two Tea Party groups in 2017 that claimed to be unfairly targeted.
As far as specific legislation to stop small businesses unfairly facing audits, Patronis cheered efforts by Overdorf and Ingoglia.
The bills will call for state-chartered banks to notify the state whenever accounts are audited. Notably, most banks in Florida are chartered through the federal government and not the state. But Patronis said the move will uncover if the IRS is going after a particular type of business owner, such as conservative donors. He also wants a fund available to assist small businesses who believe they are targeted.
Another aspect of the bill would be to require tech companies handling financial transactions to be responsible for tracking them in the event the federal government again lowers the threshold for reporting. He also wants state civil penalties that will punish IRS agents who individually go rogue and begin to unfairly target businesses with audits.
Ingoglia said he jumped at the chance to file the Senate bill (SB 372). He suggested that as a low-tax state, Florida will be one of the chief places the IRS steps up audits if the mission is generating more federal revenue.
“They’re going to have no place to go but the places where that are fiscally sound and Florida is one of them,” he said.
Overdorf noted the legislation (HB 507) focuses on protecting businesses that make less than $4 million a year.
“I want to stand up for those small businesses within the state of Florida,” he said. “And that’s really what we’re doing in this legislation. We’re standing up for that little guy.”