IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel told lawmakers on Tuesday that the agency is aiming to hire 8,000 enforcement agents by the end of 2025 and other support employees, but high attrition rates may hindering efforts.

The goal is to bring agency’s total headcount from 90,000 to just over 100,000 in the next three years.

“But not much [over that],” Werfel said, who was confirmed in March.

Lawmakers on the House’s oversight committee were keen on hearing hiring breakdowns for the IRS, especially under the Inflation Reduction Act, which will bring the agency a total of $80 billion over the next decade if Republicans don’t seek to peel it back via legislation.

“The IRS in my opinion needs to invest in highly skilled experts,” said Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich. “Not simply hire more employees, but higher quality, not so much quantity.”

Hiring could be hamstrung by high attrition rates that continued to affect certain occupations disproportionately. According to the Government Accountability Office, the IRS has particular difficulty brining on and retaining employees who process returns.

For the critical filing season, the attrition rate for those workers was 16% compared to the agency’s overall rate of 7.5%, as of last year. Additionally, the agency loses about 23% of new onboards within two or three years, according to the watchdog.

In arguing for continued recruitment efforts, Werfel has also repeatedly reassured the public and lawmakers that funded initiatives would not levied against law-abiding, low- or middle-income Americans, despite the picture that some have painted of armed agents banging down doors or weaponized employers working on a political agenda.

“Is your employee pool about 50-50? Or are we tilting too much towards one political belief?” asked Wisconsin Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman. “Do you have any idea?”

“We absolutely don’t ask that question,” Werfel responded. “I think it would be inappropriate for us to ask that of our staff. We do make it clear that it is a fundamental value of the IRS that politics has no place in our operations or decision-making.”

Werfel said in his testimony that expanded enforcement will be focused on taxpayers with complex filings and “high-dollar noncompliance.” The audit rate will also not increase for small businesses and households earning $400,000 per year or less, he said.

In September, the agency announced it was hiring for 3,700 such specialized enforcement positions. The vast majority of employees, about 97%, Werfel said, are not armed, and most of the new hires will not be either.

“Only a very small number of IRS employees carry firearms as part of their job,” he added. “All of these employees are in our Criminal Investigation Division, and they carry firearms to assist with their law-enforcement work, which includes stopping drug cartels, human trafficking and financial crimes, including those crimes perpetrated by groups supporting terrorists.”

Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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