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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher January 14, 2011

Wisconsin Assembly speaker Jeff Fitzgerald says the IRS has to add 15,000 employees to administer the new health care law

Days before becoming speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, Jeff Fitzgerald was given a national platform to lay into the federal health care reform law that he and other critics call "ObamaCare."

On the Dec. 27, 2010, edition of PBS Newshour, the Horicon Republican claimed that "from the IRS standpoint, 15,000 new employees have to be added just to, you know, administer ObamaCare and look at the tax implications."

That’s a big, round number, so let’s check Fitzgerald’s math.  

Since President Barack Obama signed the reforms into law in March 2010, attacks by opponents have increased. In January 2011, Wisconsin moved to join 20 other states in a federal court lawsuit in Florida that seeks to overturn the law.

To assess Fitzgerald’s claim, we asked his spokesman, former Milwaukee radio personality John Jagler, for the source of the 15,000 jobs figure. Jagler said it came from the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan.

The public-interest law firm, which says it represents Christians and their religious beliefs, filed a suit in federal court in Michigan that is similar to the Florida case that Wisconsin wants to join.

After a Michigan judge upheld the health care reforms law -- in a ruling the law center is appealing -- law center president Richard Thompson issued a statement. It said the health reforms will "add an estimated 16,000 to 20,000 additional IRS agents to monitor tax returns and records to determine compliance with the new regulations."  

So, Fitzgerald was slightly more conservative with his 15,000 claim.

We checked with the IRS, which said it has not settled on a number or even done its own jobs estimate. So any number out there presented as fact is problematic.

Back to the Thomas More Law Center number.

Thompson arrived at his 16,000 to 20,000 estimate after reviewing articles by conservative think tanks and news outlets, according to law center spokeswoman Kate Lynch. Those articles cited a March 2010 Republican report from the House Ways and Means Committee, she said.

That report didn’t use numbers as high as Thompson’s. It said the IRS "may need to hire as many as 16,500 additional auditors, agents and other employees to investigate and collect billions in new taxes from Americans" in connection with the health care reform law.

The Republican report’s estimate was based in part on a November 2009 financial impact estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The budget office projected that administering the law will cost the IRS between $5 billion and $10 billion over 10 years.

The nine-page Republican report cited the 16,500 jobs figure five times. However, as our colleagues at PolitiFact National pointed out, the report also hedged its estimate, saying in a footnote that the number of additional IRS jobs likely will be between 11,800 and 16,500.

Let’s circle back.

Fitzgerald claimed that 15,000 IRS employees "have to be added" to manage the health care reform law, as if it’s a settled point. There’s little question more IRS workers will have to be added, but the agency has not set a number. And there is no evidence that 15,000 will be the final number, though it is within the range of one government estimate, albeit one done for House Republicans.

We rate Fitzgerald’s statement Barely True.

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Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.

Our Sources

PBS Newshour, In Wisconsin, political battle brewing over shaping health reform law, Dec. 27, 2010

PolitiFact.com, Kirk says health care bill will lead IRS to hire more than 16,000 new employees, March 29, 2010

JSOnline.com, State to join federal health lawsuit, Van Hollen says, Jan. 10, 2011

Thomas More Law Center, statement, Oct. 7, 2010

Thomas More Law Center website, About page

House Ways and Means Republicans, The Wrong Prescription: Democrats’ Health Overhaul Dangerously Expands IRS Authority, March 18, 2010

PolitiFact.com, PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year: A "government takeover of healthcare,’’ Dec. 16, 2010

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin to fight health reform law, Dec. 5, 2010

E-mail interview, Internal Revenue Service spokesman Christopher Miller, Jan. 11, 2011

E-mail interview, Thomas More Law Center director of communications and development Kate Lynch, Jan. 12, 2011

Interview, House Ways and Means Committee senior advisor Michelle Dimarob, Jan. 11, 2011

Congressional Budget Office, analysis of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Nov. 18, 2009

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More by Tom Kertscher

Wisconsin Assembly speaker Jeff Fitzgerald says the IRS has to add 15,000 employees to administer the new health care law

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